Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Big TIFF Choice

Getting your hands on tickets is the easy part. Finding a hotel within 50km nominally harder. Making selections much, much worse. But the toughest bit is not regretting your choices. And there are LOTS of choices, but a yes to one thing means a no to another, so you have to make your selections strategically.

Anomalisa – Written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman, the brilliant mind behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. This is Kaufman’s first time exploring a story through stop-motion animation, my favourite kind of animation. It really gives me such an appreciation for a filmmaker’s eye, because every single thing on screen has not only been painstakingly planned but then hand-crafted. So even if the story’s no good, it’s always a feast for the eyes, but I’m willing to bet this one is worthwhile: a motivational speaker is crippled by the banality of his life. It’s kind of reminding me of Mary and Max, one of the best things I’d seen in a good long while.

Black Mass – I’m not sure if I’m super interested in this one myself, but everyone else sure is, so I feel like I need to flag down this bandwagon and inquire about seating. Johnny Depp, who I don’t really care for, stars as notorious gangster Whitey Bulger who spent 30 years as an FBI informant. I feel like we’ve seen Johnny Depp in this role a hundred times before (okay, 4 times, but still) so I’m not sure I’m it for anything other than Benedict Cumberbatch, and can he do a Boston accent?

The Danish Girl – Eddie Redmayne stars as Lili Elbe, the 1920s Danish artist who was one of the first recipients of sexual reassignment surgery, in this biopic directed by The King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper. I totally get why I’m supposed to be into this movie, but I’m a little worried it’s just Oscar bait. Bonus points for having Alicia Vikander portray Ebe’s wife. Interesting note: Nicole Kidman was attached for years to star in Edmayne’s role.

Demolition – This is the opening night premiere and likely to be The Big Ticket. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a grief-stricken investment banker intent on unravelling his whole life, until a kindly but burdened customer service agent (Naomi Watts) responds to one of his ranting letters of complaint. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild).

Dheepan –  Sounds like an interesting and complex drama about a Tamil Tiger soldier who flees the Sri Lankan civil war bound for suburban Paris. Won the Palme D’or at Cannes this year.

The Dressmaker – I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s on my list. Stars Kate Winslet as a butcher. Just kidding. She would be the dressmaker, returning to small-town Australia, bringing bits of Parisian couture with her to fix the native hemlines and her own personal life. Dubiously co-stars Liam Hemsworth, which makes me think maybe I shouldn’t take this one too seriously.

Eye In The Sky – Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul (weird couple alert!) star in this one, about a drone mission that gets dicey when a little girl stumbles into the kill zone.

The Family Fang – Directed by and starring Jason Bateman, it tells the story of two grown siblings (Nicole Kidman being the second) forced to move back home after their estranged prankster parents (Christopher Walken, MaryAnn Plunkett) have an accident. I have a feeling this will be one of those disappointing Jason Bateman movies, but I am absolutely still moved to see it. Someone talk me out of it.

Forsaken – The Sutherland men star in this Canadian movie, which right away makes me not want to see it. And it’s a western. But it co-stars one of Sean’s childhood friends, which plops it center on his to-watch list. And on the plus side, I doubt we’ll have much competition for these tickets.

Freeheld – This one is a priority for me as it sounds really really good and chock-full of stellar performances. Starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page as a couple who take on a police union when one of them gets a terminal illness and wants to leave her benefits to the other. A true story that was a big moment for LGBT rights.

I Smile Back – Possibly a riskier choice among these contenders, it stars Sarah Silverman as a drug-addicted New Jersey housewife, and as you can imagine, it’s probably not about how that turned out really well for her. I’m not necessarily a big Silverman fan, but I do have a thing for Josh Charles, who plays her husband, and at least on paper, this one has potential for surprise.

The Lady in the Van – Maggie Smith plays a high-born homeless woman (who lives in a van down by the river?) who befriends the man whose driveway she’s living in. I don’t know much about this but usually if Maggie Smith’s in it, I’m there. Other intriguing names: James Corden and Jim Broadbent.

Legend – Tom Hardy plays identical twin gangsters. I’m definitely in camp Hardy and I bet he’ll be great, but I do wish this was a bit more of a departure for him.

The Lobster – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly star in this one that sounds absolutely bananas. In the future, single people are arrested and incarcerated in a creepy hotel where they have 45 days to hook up with a new mate – or else! Or else what? Or else they get turned into animals, apparently. So there’s that. Obvious potential to be disastrously bad, but might also be a highlight if done well. And it should be a break from all the heavy drama the pervades this list.

Lolo – I have a persistent crush on Julie Delpy, so it will be hard for me to resist this satirical comedy even though it sounds like a cross between How Stella Got her Groove Back (workaholic Violette finds romance while on a spa vacation) and Cyrus (her new beau soon has doubts when witnesses her unusual relationship with her 20-year-old son.)

Maggie’s Plan – Greta Gerwig stars as a young woman so determined to have a baby she ends up embroiled in a weird relationship with a curious couple (Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore). Greta Gerwig is a bit hit or miss with me, but I do think she’s interesting to watch and she takes some interesting chances. I’d much rather hit or miss than the dozens of bland actresses who are her contemporaries.

The Martian – A big priority for me because this is one of my favourite reads from last year, and when I passed the book on to non-literate Sean, it because his favourite as well. But this is a Ridley Scott blockbuster that’s bound to be at the top of lots of lists, and then there’s always the potential that they’ll screw up a book that you love, and that potential seems very real with Ridley Scott at the helm.

Room – The problem is, I really loved this book as well, so I’m feel like I’m setting myself up for disappointment by tempting fate twice. But it’s a fascinating story – a woman (Brie Larson) is held captive in a single room for YEARS, and bears a child in there, who has never seen the outside world. Then they escape, and now they have to learn to live in the world, which turns out to be the challenging part of the equation!

Son of Saul – A prisoner of Auschwitz forced to burn bodies takes it upon himself to rescue one such body, that of a little boy he takes for his son, and give him a proper burial. Bound to be gut AND heart-wrenching. Better to leave this one for when I’m not so burned out on movies?

Spotlight – Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton are a real-life team of reporters who take down the rapey, child-molesty Catholic Church. Subject matter may make it harder for me to lust after John Slattery, and isn’t that the whole point? Yes, I’ve missed the point. What was my point?

Trumbo – Bryan Cranston is Dalton Trumbo in this biopic about the Hollywood screenwriter who is blacklisted for being a Commie.

Victoria – About a young Spanish party girl who somehow becomes the get-away driver for a bank-robbing foursome. Not my usual fare, but super interested in its apparently being shot in a single extended take.

Where to Invade Next – Michael Moore’s most recent “documentary”, bound to be buzzed-about and controversial, and the only film of its kind on the docket.

Honestly, I think it would be difficult to lose with this line-up, and I’ve sadly had to leave lots of really great choices on the cutting room floor (but of course may happily reconsider them when we’re making actual selections, depending on how lucky we get).

What did I miss? Which would you choose? Matt, are we on the same page at all?

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Twins

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Really, Wanderer? Twins?! There’s got to be more out there than I was able to think of but I’m still drawing a complete blank. Well, an almost complete blank. I came up with these three.

dead-ringers

Dead Ringers (1988)– I rarely know what to say about a David Cronenberg movie even immediately after watching it so the fact that I didn’t get a chance to rewatch this bizarre story of twin gynecologists with a bizarre relationship puts me at a huge disadvantage. What I do remember is that both twins- one devilishly charming and the other wracked with social anxiety- are played to perfection by the great jeremy Irons. They may look exactly alike but we can always tell them apart by their posture and body language.

adaptation

Adaptation (2002)– Speaking of werid movies about twins, weird screenwriter Charlie Kaufman dreamt up a twin brother for himself and got that nut Nicolas Cage to play both of them. Much like in Dead Ringers, Charlie is socially awkward and especially shy around pretty girls while Donald has an almost pathological lack of anxiety. Donald may be a big goof but Charlie has a lot to learn from him. Adding to the weirdness, fictional Donald Kaufman gets a writing credit on Charlie’s screenplay (and even gets nominated for an Oscar because of it).

skeleton twins

The Skeleton Twins (2014)– The gimmick of having the same actor play twins can be a lot of fun but if that doesn’t work casting two actors who were born five years apart and look nothing alike will work too. Kristen Wiif and Bill Hader play estranged twins who reunite after Milo’s (Hader) suicide attempt. I’m still not completely clear on why their relationship is so strained or why both twins are pretty messed up but the sincerity of both SNL alumni surprises even a fan like me.

Baby Boomers: Generation Suck

If you’re anything other than a baby boomer yourself, then I don’t need to tell you that baby boomers are the absolute WORST generation.

They raped the earth so they could have their cake and some of the other guy’s cake too. There’s a Chevy in every driveway and a chicken in every pot, but at what cost? They didn’t care. They wanted it all, and they took it, leaving things in perilous condition for us. And still they won’t get out of the way. I get it: your 60s aren’t what they used to be. For one thing, you’re still alive. And in relative good health! You still want to feel needed. And so you soldier on, hogging all the jobs with livable salaries and good benefits for yourselves way beyond what’s really fair, and kids out of college are forced to stay in demeaning jobs meant for pocket-money. Their student debt is astronomical and it’s unlikely they’ll ever achieve home ownership, but that’s fine, baby boomers. Keep working well past your retirement age. Your sense of entitlement really suits you!

But what REALLY gets my goat is when these jerks show up at the movie theatre.

First of all, they want the senior’s discount. They have more money than any subsequent 14769354__346274c-300x199generation will have access to, what with the disappearing middle class, but they will insist on every savings they can get, even though they’re 68 and still working full-time, while the ticket taker has a Master’s in theatre but goes home smelling like popcorn and broken dreams. If you make them ask for the discount, they’re mad, but if you give it to them freely, they’re even madder. Because in his head, he doesn’t look 68. He looks 48 at most! So how dare you give such a youthful looking chap the senior rate! Although definitely give him the senior rate because only an idiot pays full price. The only right thing to say, when taking their money, is: That will be full price sir, even though it’s senior’s day, because I can clearly see from your beard with just a tough of gray that you are much too young and full of vigor to apply, although if you happened to slip me some ID that would prove otherwise, to my complete shock, I would happily give you the discount!

They don’t want to look old or feel old, except for when it suits them. And then they’re playing up the old guy card with vim and pleasure. You see, baby boomers think rules don’t apply to them, and your local Cineplex is but one example of how they work the system.

1. They blatantly bring in their own snacks to the movie even though everyone and their grandmother knows this is patently against the rules. They walk right past the ushers with Bulk Barn bags a-burstin’. Just try to stop them, underpaid teenagers!

2. They’ll sit behind you and talk throughout the entire thing. Not whisper, but actually shout to stfu1be heard over the annoying volume of the movie by their similarly hard-hearing compatriots. Matt and I had a really trying experience at a showing of Mr. Turner for this exact reason – and the worst part is, the seniors are there because they get cheap tickets. They don’t care or even know what movie they’re seeing. The old fellow beside Matt used the film’s running time to take a nap, the kind that traps us in our seats for the duration, and beyond, but he was much less annoying that the gaggle of friends behind us who gossiped like they were in a coffee shop.

3. And they say the most 24accc5da6536a85da20993dc92a485f848a324d33cbf19552ffab8fba3af8c3racist shit! Sean and I had the unfortunate experience of being stuck in front of a chatty group of seniors when we saw Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Those boomers could not tell any of the black people apart. When a black guy showed up on a family’s porch in military uniform, one old guy told the others, who needed help following the plot, in full confidence, that it was the son, when in fact it was another soldier there to tell that their son was dead. And you should have heard their discussion when JFK was shot! I mean, these people LIVED through this time period, do they really need help remembering that this guy was assassinated? Assassinated dead? Like, all the way dead? Yes, yes they did.

4. A couple of weeks ago, Sean and I took in a showing of Infinitely Polar Bear during which an older woman texted the whole fucking time. Because the rules don’t apply to baby boomers! And this was still less blatant than the old guy at the premiere of Hot Pursuit who sat in the front row reading from an e-reader the entire time!! What the fuck?

I want to believe that not all baby boomers are terrible people. I really do. It’s just that they seem to insistently prove it to me over and over! So until they can show me that they’re willing to obey the rules that apply to everyone else, I think we need to lobby movie theatres to get special screenings for those over 60 – much like the screenings for parents with young babies, they should have theatres reserved for the elderly. And charge them DOUBLE.

Who’s with me? Every had a terrible experience with old people at the movies? I bet you have!

 

Comedian

Sean and I were very lucky to spend the weekend at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. We saw Dave Chappelle, Ellie Kemper’s Unbreakable, All-Star Comedy Show, where she hosted Michael Che, Chris Hardwick, and Margaret Cho (among others), and the Alan Cumming Gala, where he hosted the likes Joel Creasey, Todd Glass, Orny Adams, Jen Kirkman, and Dana Gould (Rob Schneider was announced, but a no-show). And then later that night we happened to upon a surprise show by Aziz Ansari, so we had ourselves a weekend.

Dave Chappelle was awesome. All-caps awesome. AWESOME. We’d seen him before at the Funny or Die Oddball Comedy Festival in Chicago (with Flight of the Conchords!) and found him even more hilarious in person than even his brilliant show of yore, Chappelle’s Show, suggested. The fact that there was a surprise appearance and performance by Mos Def made it, like, astronomically all-caps awesome.

We looked forward to each and every performance and I was wiggling away in my seat just pleased as all get-out to see Mr. Alan Cumming live and in person. My love for him is immeasurable, and in fact, upon reflection, I can’t even tell you where it comes from. It feels like 0725 jfl gala cumming mandel 01 it’s just always been there. And he’s so much more than his American film credits would have you believe (he was Nightcrawler in X-men 2). If you have Instagram, you can hear Sean and I singing along on his post – live from Montreal, it’s Saturday night on Broadway. And while all of the acts that he hosted were excellent (Todd Glass being a particular favourite, since Sean and I happened to sit beside him on our recent flight from Los Angeles to Montreal, and when he went into a bit about a crazy lady on an airplane who ate a KitKat with deliberate and infuriating slowness, we gave each other accusatory but conspiratorial looks). However, there was one act that I was much less enthusiastic about.

Comedian_movie_posterSo there’s this excellent documentary you may have seen simply titled Comedian. And it’s basically about Jerry Seinfeld, post-Seinfeld, after he retired all his old material and is now on the comedy circuit, trying out new material. It’s an incredibly insightful look at the comic’s creative process, the writing and the honing and the practise. As I love stand-up, I adore this film. It doesn’t hurt that it includes bits from other comedians I really admire – Colin Quinn, Gary Shandling, Chris Rock. It also features a young comedian called Orny Adams, up and coming but already the ego on this kid.

It was painful for me to watch this kid beg for celebrity, a complete unknown talk about all the jealousy he’s encountered. And then stand him beside Jerry, who is bigger than big but doesn’t seem to have an ounce of ego to him, and is humbling himself night after night in front of audiences, and even he is kindly shaking his head at Orny’s hubris. In Comedian, Orny Adams is actually chasing his frist spot on the Just For Laughs Festival line-up in Montreal. And I hated every minute of his footage. Hated it. He was such an annoying douche, complaining about how he mysteriously wasn’t famous yet, though none of his material made me laugh in the least. Of course, when the audience fails to laugh, or only laughs politely, he blames them. They’re all wrong, he’s still right. When senior comedians offer him advice, they’re cocksuckers. There’s not a humble bone in his body, or, as far as I can tell, a funny one.

I took away a lot from this particular documentary: respect for the craft, and a better understand of the crippling insecurity behind most acts, but I also took away an astounding dislike of Orny Adams. Rewatching the documentary today, I see he’s even more annoying that I remembered him. But watching him on stage on Saturday, his set was near-perfect. Tight. We laughed. I don’t know if he’s grown as a person, but he’s definitely grown as an artist,

 

Pixels

I should have known better than to get my hopes up.  Mediocrity is as good as we have gotten from Adam Sandler and Kevin James over the last five years plus, and even that “height” has been rarely obtained.  But then the Pixels trailer hit and tapped into that latent 80s kid vibe that Wreck-It-Ralph and Ready Player One both nailed, and I suddenly had this irrational hope that this movie would make me feel the same way, despite who was behind it.

But this movie about a world threatened by 80s videogames is not a disaster movie; it’s just a disaster.  There are a few laughs but it’s awful to see how badly the movie wasted its concept.  This could have, and should have, been something fun.  It was a great summer movie idea.   Instead, 95% of the funny parts are in the three minute trailer.  They got me a few other times with stupid stuff but mainly I was just thinking about how this seemed to have all been thrown together in a week, and how much the writers must have hated the source material to not even try to have any fun with it (really, it’s like they didn’t even watch a Wreck-It-Ralph trailer, let alone the movie).

To say much more would be to give the movie too much of my energy, so I’ll just paraphrase Billy Madison’s high school principal and say I am now dumber for having watched this movie, I award Pixels three 80s videogame points out of ten, and may god have mercy on Adam Sandler’s soul.

The Forger

The Forger

For those who like a little Kids with Cancer with their heist movies, John Travolta’s latest may be for you.

Travolta plays Raymond Cutter, a skilled art forger who, upon learning that his teenage son is terminally ill, begs his old crime boss to pull some strings to get him released from prison with only months left to go on his sentence. Of course, nothing’s free in these kinds of movies and his boos wants something in return: forge me a Monet and steal me the real one. Not an easy task under the best of times but even harder when you’re trying to bond with your estranged sick son and your estranged Dad at the same time.

I had a short conversation with Khalid from The Blazing Reel last week about Travolta’s many questionable choices but I was amazed when watching The Forger how bad things really have gotten for him. I’m amazed that this wasn’t a straight-to DVD release. As I implied in my opening paragraph, the pairing of the sick kid family drama and caper picture feels awkward and a little crass. Travolta, as well as Christopher Plummer and Tye Sheridan (who play Travolta’s father and son), really seem to be trying but the family drama really doesn’t give them much to work with. Cutter spends most of his bonding time with his son by taking him to see a prostitute and teaching him to forge paintings. The father-son story takes up so much of the film’s running time that little time is left over for the planning and execution of the heist itself, which is pretty much rushed through at the end.

Still, I can’t claim indifference. I found myself wanting things to work out for these three characters. Knowing that Travolta himself has lost a son made it impossible for me to write off the story as completely trite. Unfortunately, there’s just not a single new twist or idea to be found in this movie that tries to be two movies without delivering on either one.

The Age of Adaline

We missed this screening while in Paris, and I was okay with missing it, although our proxy did give it a one-word rave review: “fine”.

On our return flight from California, it was the only New Release I hadn’t already seen, so I gave it a go, and came up with much the same conclusion: it’s fine.

Adaline gets into an accident that causes her to stay 29 forever. And then she has the gall to TheAgeofAdaline2complain about it.  So that’s annoying. And she may have the glowing complexion of a 29-year-old, but she tells a story like a 129 year old: it’s long, rambling, often pointless.

Adaline, that is to say Blake Lively, looks gorgeous in every era. But her “problem” has made her selfish and I had a hard time finding anything likeable about her, other than having Ellen Burstyn as a daughter, and wondered why yet another of her “problems” was having all these handsome men fall in love with her. Wow. Poor Adaline. Tough life.

Anyway, you know exactly where this movie is going, and it goes exactly there, eventually, after a lot of plodding along.

I did love that it was set in San Francisco, since I had just been holidaying there myself, and recognized her digs in Chinatown. Actually, San Francisco is maybe the most interesting character – it’s often shot beautifully, almost noir-ish, which almost makes me sad. It looks and sounds like a movie that was supposed to be so much better than it was. Unfortunately it’s just another bland romance with a light and improbable sci-fi twist – basically, a very pretty fashion show. And the thing is, I don’t buy Blake as anything more than a mannequinn. She’s a clothes horse, but her eyes are blank. Her face is incapable of communicating anything to the audience, and she pales next to Harrison Ford, who gives off some mega wattage in a hammy performance I didn’t expect from him.

Verdict: missed opportunity.

Sequels

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When i was a kid, I loved Back to the Future and Home Alone and, when I first heard about sequels, I couldn’t believe my luck that there would be more of exactly the same. Home Alone 2, Back to the Future II, and Back to the Future III were predictable in the best way possible with virutally every scene from the first being pretty much recreated in some way in the sequels. As much as I loved the familiairity of sequels in those days, i’ve come to expect a little more. Here are three that aim a little higher than giving us more of the same. Please visit Wandering Through the Shelves to see what sequels some of our favourite bloggers love.

terminator 2

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)– Director james Cameron seemed to realize that Arnold Schwartzenegger, who had starred in several hits in the seven years between Terminator movies, was a tough guy to root against. As imposing a villian he was in Terminator, Arnold is just more fun as a hero in Terminator 2. With those sunglasses, that bike, that jacket and those one-liners, he brings a lot of charisma to the role of a robot. Other improvements include a tougher Sarah Connor (who Linda Hamilton is more than up to the challenge of playing), imaginative effects, and an altogether more epic approach to the story.

before sunset

Before Sunset (2004)– 1995’s Before Sunrise seems like an unlikely beginning to a franchise. It was low-budget and SOtalky. I actually hated it when I first saw it. I found it to be boring and a little pretentious and it started in me a hate-on for Ethan Hawke that has lasted to this day. Nine years later, when Celine and Jesse reunite in Paris, they have matured just as the actors have and are much easier to root for. Their conversations, which seemed so trite to me in the first, are loaded with subtext in the second. They’ve spent nine year wondering what they would say to each other if they saw each other again and the weight of this moment is felt through every minute of this beautiful film.

The Raid 2 (2014)The Raid: Redemption, although awesome, was little more than a brilliantly executed bloodbath. Director Gareth Evans raises the stakes for The Raid 2 with even more carnage and well-choreographed fights but we get so much more. While the first was set almost entirely in a crackhouse with dialogue only when absolutely necessary, the second weaves a much more complex crime story with our hero going undercover in an organized crime syndicate in the middle of a turf war. Some of the best action filmmaking I’ve ever seen.

Infinitely Polar Bear

Jordan over at Epileptic Moondancer wrote about this great film he saw, and he made me want to see it too, only, it never came. Well, not quite never, since it’s here now, only it’s just playing at our local art-house theatre (shout out, Bytowne, we love you!) and as far as I can tell, didn’t get much in the way of a release.

And that’s too bad because Mark Ruffalo, whom I normally loathe, does a bang-up job of portraying a husband and father who struggles with the mental illness that is now known as bi-polar (not so much in the 70s, when this film is set). His wife (a strong Zoe Saldana) married him optimistically and learns about his disease the hard way. In the throes of a manic phase he’s erratic at best, and scares his wife and two young daughters. They lose him to a psychiatric ward, and a FIPHD1iOek65hl6LdUL2HQhalfway house, and to loads of mood-altering medications, and in his quest to come back to them, he agrees to care for his girls while his wife goes off to NYC to get a business degree and a real shot at a job. She’s putting an awful lot of faith in a man who, most days, doesn’t seem capable of caring even for himself, but this is what he needs, and what their family needs, and needs must.

It’s easy to applaud this intimate and sympathetic look at a challenging illness. Writer-director Maya Forbes cast her own daughter in the fictionalized version of herself, a young girl caught between a father she dearly loves and a disease she doesn’t fully understand. This is clearly a deeply personal movie, stemming from a deeply personal place. And if this is how she experienced her father’s mental illness, then good for her. The movie makes it seem more like a quirky inconvenience than the devastating illness I know it to be, but if you ever have the misfortune of this diagnosis, then I fully hope that you get the bi-polar that Forbes lived with, and not the one I did.

Coming out of the theatre, Sean asked what I thought. And I genuinely thought it was a brilliant kq-infinitely-polar-bear-videothumbmovie, so well-acted by all involved. I also think it makes bi-polar look kind of fun. And the thing is, like any mental illness, and like many illnesses period, I suppose, the symptoms and severity and experience will vary from person to person. So while some may enjoy riding bicycles in bathing suits as their low, when I lived with someone who was bi-polar, I spent long months in a sad, scary, violent, life-shattering space. It’s not always as fun as it looks in the movies.

But Mark Ruffalo does an excellent job of hitting both highs and lows with some subtlety, playing each note, finding the heartbreak. Saldana is vulnerable, and even though I never stopped asking myself how she could leave her kids alone with this man, I still felt warmth toward her for trying so hard to make bi-polar just another thing to live with. I’m still queasy about movies that romanticize mental illness, but I’m also blown away by some fantastic performances that thrive and come alive despite a saccharine script.

Trainwreck

Before watching Trainwreck, I did not know who Amy Schumer was (though Jay assures me I have watched some of her standup). Now, after watching Trainwreck on Saturday, we are binge watching all three seasons of Inside Amy Schumer, her Comedy Central show. I feel like the fact we wanted to see more is a ringing endorsement of Ms. Schumer’s brand of comedy, and thus an endorsement of this movie. Because she carries this movie and she is more than up to the task.

She’s not alone though.  There are lots of really good performances here.  Especially LeBron James.  Now as you may know, LeBron is on our shit list because he decided to skip last year’s Cleveland/OKC matchup that happened to be my birthday present (ironically because of a sore knee).  So this praise is very grudgingly given, but his portrayal of himself is probably the second funniest character in the movie.  I wish he had been given more screen time.

Also hilarious is John Cena as Amy’s sort-of boyfriend.  His movie theatre confrontation is probably the funniest scene in the movie.  There are certainly other funny parts but as Jay reminded me, Judd Apatow seems to focus on drawing out funny character stuff rather than trying to cram a scene full of laughs.  And I think that works here.

The only thing that doesn’t work is Amy’s love for Bill Hader’s sports doctor.  We never really see why he’s so awesome, which is a shame.  Especially because it seems the reason we don’t see/feel the connection between the leads is that Bill Hader is so restrained.  He seems to be actually acting, which I kind of feel bad criticizing him for.  It’s not that he’s bad, not at all, but it feels off when John Cena and LeBron James are making me laugh more than Bill Hader.

That’s really my only complaint about the movie.  Trainwreck is not quite great but it’s very good.  It’s been an excellent summer movie season and this is one of the best comedies so far (right up there for me with Spy and Inside Out).  That’s why Trainwreck gets a score of eight athlete cameos out of ten.