Monthly Archives: February 2018

Landline

This movie is deliciously familiar.

Manhattan, 1995: a time when people still smoked inside, while sitting on their plush, wall-to-wall carpeting. Personal phone calls were made on the street corner, on a dirty pay phone, and it cost a quarter. And in the Jacobs home, a forgotten floppy disk leads teenager Ali to discover her father’s affair (and embarrassing erotic poetry). Ali (Abby Quinn) recruits older sister Dana (Jenny Slate) into her investigation. The pair are bonding for the first time, perhaps even bonding over the secrets and lies, while also coming to terms with their own sex and love lives.

It’s really fun to watch Quinn and Slate together on screen. It’s obvious the sisters have some history but ultimately they care about each other, and about their parents, who are seeming more and more human all the time. Do you remember the first time you saw your parents as fallible, flawed people? This is their discover. Their father (John landline-5931Turturro) may be stepping out on their mom, but he’s also the geeky guy who still takes them to Benihana for special occasions even though they’re far too old. Their mother (Edie Falco) has never struck them as a sexual being before, but it turns out that she too has wants and needs, and that maybe not all her tears and concerns are for them. This is a really great script that unfolds over just a couple of days, but pivotal days that will completely reconstruct the family.

Director Gillian Robespierre clearly has some love for the 90s and at times coasts on those references, which are admittedly a bit indulgent, but fun to savour. Landline doesn’t exactly break new ground in terms of theme or content but it’s a commentary on cheating by cheaters, and the implosion of a nuclear family just as it was about to expire anyway. There’s some nostalgia here, not just for the time period, but for that period of time before the kids grow wiser than the parents. The family’s shifting dynamics exhibit growing pains that are universal. And the great work by a talented ensemble means this family is fun to watch even as their ship is going down.

 

 

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I Could Never Be Your Woman

This was such a weird movie I’ve waited two weeks to write the review and still haven’t found the angle. Not that it’s urgent: it’s from 2007, so you’re not exactly waiting on the edge of your seat to hear my proclamation. You’ve maybe even already seen it, but then again, probably not. It didn’t exactly make a big splash in the land of movies.

Here’s an interesting thing: it’s a film by Amy Heckerling, the woman who wrote and directed Clueless. This movie is about a woman, Rosie (Michelle Pfeiffer), who writes a MV5BMTk3NDc3ODk2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDc3NDI3._V1_TV show that looks and sounds a lot like Clueless. It’s about the very coolest of high school students, and stars adults who don’t quite pull off their roles. Among them – Stacey Dash, a crazy lady who was 28 when she played Dionne in Clueless and 40 when she reprised the role of too cool for school adolescent in this film. Paul Rudd, only a couple of years younger, turns up in this one too, playing a teenager on set and the role of younger suitor to Rosie, who is mortified. And, of course, flattered, and maybe interested.

Not that Rosie has a lot of spare time to consider younger lovers. She’s trying hard to save her show, and to co-parent with her youth-obsessed ex-husband (Jon Lovitz), and to parent her wise-beyond-her-years actual teenage daughter Izzie (Saoirse Ronan in her film debut – yeah, this kid was always going to be a star).

Anyway, there’s three paragraphs to distract from the fact that I still can’t quite make a pronouncement. The truth is, there’s some juicy satire here. It has lots to say about a woman’s insecurities, and generational differences in falling love, and the impossible standards of show business. But for every great little quirk (many provided by Ronan – her character parodies songs sort of a la Weird Al, but with a feminist twist, likely years beyond her grasp) there’s a lot of rom-com cliches to wade through. But there’s the added bonus of Tracey Ullman as a personified Mother Nature, guiding us through the dark forest of female self-esteem. Heckerling clearly has a lot to say and I bet this film was quite personal to her, but she spirals out of control a few times. In the end, if you’re a sucker for Paul Rudd (and let’s be honest: who isn’t?) or if you’re curious how a little girl with a strong Irish lilt fares blasting out the angry lyrics of a certain Canadian songstress, go ahead and look this one up.

Poop Talk

Poop. Everybody does it; polite people don’t talk about it. Poop Talk features very few polite people. Make no mistake, Poop Talk is a documentary but it will not enlighten you or educate you. Instead it assembles dozens of your favourite comedians and asks them to relate their best bits about poop. Whether or not this documentary will entertain you depends entirely on your tolerance for scatological humour.

Personally, I have likely never laughed at a poop joke. I believe there’s a reason that we build sacred rooms in our homes devoted to just one thing: pooping. Bodily functions are private. Why bother doing them behind closed doors if we then fling the door open and MV5BMTA5ODIxN2ItMTE0My00NjZkLWEyNjEtZTcxNzVhMzQwMzQwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjMyOTQ5OTA@._V1_proudly boast about our most disgusting feats? Having recently spent quite a lot of time with nephews aged 3,4, and 6, the phrase “no toilet talk” has left my lips more times than I can count. And now I realize I’m happy to do my part in teaching the future generation what’s appropriate to talk about in public and what’s not if it means no one has to sit through such a “frank” documentary every again.

Nicole Byer, Eric Stonestreet, Rob Coddry, Pete Holmes, Aisha Tyler, the Sklar Brothers, Nick Swardson, Paul Scheer, and Kumail Nanjiani are among the film’s culprits. Each brings a poop story to the table: airplane poops, public restrooms, bidets, sullied pants, ruined Passovers. Nothing is off-limits for this documentary, though it exists in a world where poop is still probably our favourite taboo. We may all be responsible for approximately 365 pounds of it per year, but most of us prefer to do it behind closed doors. Comedians, however, are not normal people. Emancipated from shame, they lay bare their most intimate poop details, and you can choose whether or not to laugh and commiserate. Eric Stonestreet is a notable exception: his list of places he won’t poop is extensive, and almost as long as mine. Thank you, sir, for being the single voice of reason.

Using almost exclusively talking head interviews, director Aaron Feldman keeps things simple and straight-forward, and never in my life have I been more grateful for a lack of illustrative graphics. I was one cutesy animation away from losing my shit. If we truly  must do this, then let’s get in and get out as quickly as possible. A tight 75 minute running time is a blessing. The film’s philosophy is elemental: the more we share openly about these things, the more united we’ll be in our human experience. Around the globe and across all cultures, everybody poops. And some rare specimens have learned to turn shit into comedy gold.

 

Wilde Wedding

Eve Wilde (Glenn Close), famous actress, is getting married. She should be good at it by now: it’s her 5th attempt. She has inspired a whole family’s worth of broken marriages, which is common enough I suppose, but I’m not sure why so many exes were invited to the wedding.

Eve’s  first love, Laurence (John Malkovich), not a movie star but a very serious actor, is included. Eve’s current love, Harold (Patrick Stewart), a writer with terrible hair, is a bit MV5BNDAzYWQwZGItNGI1Ni00YzI5LWEyNzctNmZhM2I2YjUxYmE1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc3NTA3NzI@._V1_intimidated. Is this civilized, or insanity? Eve’s granddaughter Mackenzie is making a documentary, “what does love mean to you?,” and the lineup of family members covered is immediately confusing. With so many spouses, are any of these people related?

The Minnie Driver and Peter Facinelli introduce lots of drugs to the mix, and what better on the eve of a family wedding where the first cousins are already kissing?

We tend to use ‘corny’ and ‘cheesy’ interchangeably, but they’re two different sentiments, and this movie highlights that fact perfectly: one will make you roll your eyes, the other will make you cover them. Both are incredibly uncomfortable. This is one of those movies where everything goes wrong, and wronger, in the most charmless way possible. The person who wrote this script clearly believes that bad behaviour at weddings is de facto, and that wild behaviour is entertaining. In fact, it makes me quite sad for the very venerable cast, brought so low by the material on display here. And just when you think they’ve hit every wrong note in the book, it gets worse. Predictably but not forgivably worse. To the point where even my dogs were barking at the screen, though that may have been in response to my increasingly high-pitched and indignant “REALLY?s”. Do not watch. The end.

 

Secret In Their Eyes

Thirteen years ago, Detective Jessica Cobb’s daughter was found murdered in a dumpster on a case she was working on. Her close friend and colleague Ray was the one to find her. There’s no good way to break that news to a mother, and there was no way to stop Jess from climbing into that dirty dumpster to cradle her daughter’s dead body. The case was mishandled and the killer never found, mostly because her body was discovered outside a mosque in the months following 9\11 and counter-terrorism took precedence over murder investigations. This group of detectives, once close-knit, is ripped apart at the seams from the grief and the guilt.

Cut to: thirteen years later, Jess (Julia Roberts) and Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) meet up again, in the office of a new supervisor, Claire (Nicole Kidman). Ray has some news: he thinks SITE_030515_182.CR2he’s found the culprit. 696 000 caucasian male inmates in American prisons every year; if you look at 1906 faces every night, you can cycle through the entire population in a year. Ray has done this for 13 years and finally has a bite. That’s just to let you know that it may be Jess’s kid who died, but it’s haunted Ray too. They haven’t kept in touch but Ray has never stopped looking. Jess isn’t sure she has the strength to follow the legal channels, but Ray convinces her that under Claire’s direction, things will be different.

This movie is about ghosts, and sacrifice, and justice. It’s a 2015 remake of a 2010 Argentinian movie that probably doesn’t need to exist since the original is so compelling. This one is not quite so complex and yet it’s harder to follow, the jumping back and forth between time lines not quite so clean. But Julia Roberts as a shadow of a woman, contorted with grief, is worth watching (her mother died during production; she returned to work after just 5 days), and so is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who brings a lot of grit and empathy to the role. Nicole Kidman even has a scene in which she’ll suck the air right out of the room. They’re great, and at times they elevate the material, but this movie lacks the thrill part of a thriller. There’s no real suspense generated, it just sort of feels like we’re waiting, and it’s the gloomiest waiting room you’ve ever spent 111 minutes in. Is the ending worth it? Well, I’ll tell you this: there is no happy ending when a mother’s only child is raped and murdered.

 

Sunlight, Jr.

Melissa and Richie have a pretty humble existence. They live in a motel room. He’s disabled, she works at a gas station where she’s stalked by her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend. It’s a charmless kind of life, dictated by poverty. It’s kind of dismal, but they have each other, and when they learn there’s a baby on the way, suddenly everything seems possible.

Unexpected pregnancy on a minimum wage salary is not my idea of “good luck” but sunlight_jr_2_pubswhen Melissa loses her job and she and Richie get evicted from their home, the good days are clearly behind them. The cycle of poverty’s got a pretty nasty pull on them, and in many ways this feels like a companion piece to The Florida Project, though this one’s already five years old.

The Florida Project’s a little more palatable to watch. Told from the perspective of children, the poverty feels less oppressive, or at least it’s more optimistic. In this one, however, Melissa (Naomi Watts) and Richie (Matt Dillon) are middle-aged. They’ve made their choices. There doesn’t seem to be much room for second chances.

Naomi Watts is incredible in almost everything she’s in. The problem here is not the acting, but that the acting can’t possibly do much with a sometimes remarkably stilted script. Despite some empathetic performances, the script has zero uplift. It’s tough to watch, though it is a tribute to an experience authentic to too many Americans. Watts and Dillon may be mis-cast. I hate how work dries up for aging actresses, but the fact is, she’ll be 50 this year, so she’s hardly in fertile young American territory anymore. There are loads more people who’d be far more appropriate.

Still, nothing’s really going to make this movie great. It has good intentions but can’t quite connect emotionally. It’s tedious, gray, and doesn’t care to resolve any of the adversity encountered: tragic in many sense of the word.

Newness

Two horny millennials, Gabi and Martin, listed as DTF in their social dating aps, meet up one night for some NSA fun. The sex is so hot, they accidentally fall in love. They’re both as pretty as they are restless so it’s a surprise to both of them that their one-night stand turns into a live-in relationship. This is unfamiliar territory amid their hookup culture and they have to invent games and rules to keep things interesting, but connecting is actually refreshing, and they’re intoxicated with that first blush of love. But as the newness fades, the lengths they’ll go to to keep things spicy become extreme.

Open relationships are not for everyone. I’m pretty okay about anything consensual that makes people happy and fulfilled, but let’s be honest: open relationships are hard to

Nicholas Hoult open relationship movie Newness

Um, no shit.

maintain. Also true: monogamous relationships are hard to maintain. Half of those end in divorce. Some people think they can solve the challenges of monogamy with polyamory and perhaps some are right. But if it’s difficult to make one person happy, it’s much harder juggling two or more.

Gabi and Martin are of a generation needing constant stimulus and feedback. They’ve gone from a phone full of potential lovers to one, single lover, night after night. At first it’s exhilarating to fall head over heels, but eventually monogamy starts to feel constrictive. Relying solely on each other to have their needs met becomes “boring.” So they open things up. Soon they’re swiping left and right harder than they ever did before. Does this save their relationship, or does a certain ugly green monster pay them a visit?

Laia Costa and Nicholas Hoult slide into their roles effortlessly. The camera is penetrating, the script languid. We get sucked down the rabbit hole of their relationship along with them. And you know what? Down there, it looks exactly the same as all relationships from the beginning of time. And it’s kind of dull. Director Drake Doremus doesn’t really have anything new to say. You don’t so much root for the characters as you root for their mistakes to catch up with them. Which is probably quite a bad sign, in retrospect.

Lovesick

Everyone goes just a little bit crazy when they fall in love. Charlie, however, goes clinically, certifiably insane. Outwardly he’s a middle school principal who looks like he’s got it together, but he’s ruined literally all of his relationships because of his insanity. The only trouble is, until now, he hasn’t known it. Undiagnosed, his nutty downward spiral always seems perfectly logical to him. He make huge mental leaps in order to convince himself that his girlfriend is cheating on him. This time he’s aware that he’s crazy, but that’s not the difference-maker you’d think.

And the more perfect Molly (Ali Larter) seems, the more obvious Charlie’s (Matt LeBlanc) psychosis becomes. Choosing to keep Molly in the dark, he struggles to explain away all his deranged behaviour. My sister recently told me she hates movies where everything matt-leblanc-ali-larter-lovesick-07171201agoes wrong, and I suppose I’m feeling exactly that during Lovesick. His best friend is less a character in the movie and more of a narrative device. The screenwriter seems to think if he uses him to constantly point out that yeah, his friends and family should maybe have intervened, we’ll forgive them for not doing so. But there’s no way Charlie’s behaviour would go unchecked for so long and through such serious ups and downs in real life. He does stuff he should get fired for, maybe even go to prison for, but the movie treats them like cute foibles on the road to love.

Matt LeBlanc is not a terrific actor. Previous to this, he hadn’t had a film role in 11 years (since Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle), or a starring one since 2001. With his Friends money he doesn’t have to ever act again, and it’s unimaginable that this was the material that drew him back (it’s much easier to imagine that he simply doesn’t get asked a lot).  Ali Larter is not a terrific actor either. They’re not pulling this off. And we’ll never know how Chevy Chase get embroiled in this, but there he is, breaking, entering, and watching porn. You may be scrolling through Netflix looking for a Valentine’s treat, but by god, this isn’t it.

When We First Met

Oh good, another Groundhog Day ripoff on Netflix. I complained heartily when I came across the first one, but clearly not loudly enough. HEY NETFLIX: CUT IT OUT!

This time it’s sad sack Noah (Adam Devine) who uses a photobooth to time travel back to the day where he met his true love Avery (Alexandra Daddario) – and she met someone Alexandra-Daddario-“When-We-First-Met”-2018-promotional-pictures-3else. He got friend-zoned then but he’s sure if he can just repeat that day enough times, he’ll eventually get it right, and she’ll realize that he’s her true soul mate.

The movie is so eager to play a trick on you that it literally sacrifices logic and good story-telling. Then, once the ball is rolling, you realize that you don’t care what the outcome is because Noah is so damned annoying you just sort of hope he gets sucked through a rip in the space-time continuum on his travels just so we can end this thing a little early. Noah is not a guy you root for and Adam Devine has now spent 100% of his career playing whiny, self-centered douchebags whose mouths literally resemble anuses. So I’m starting to think he’s just playing himself, and I’ve officially moved him over to my shit list.

There is not a single redeeming factor here. It’s best to keep a safe minimum distance between yourself and this movie at all times, so when browsing Netflix – beware.

American Assassin

They make you wait 20 whole minutes before getting to Tom Cruise, and when they finally do, I realized I’d been duped. In fact, it was Michael Keaton being introduced, not Tom Cruise, and I’ve been mistaking American Assassin for American Made possibly for as long as either have existed.

American Assassin is about a kid who goes on vacation with his girlfriend and sees her and countless others get slaughtered on a beach. He does what any reasonable bloke would do: he grows regrettable facial hair, and decides to become a secret spy assassin. american-assassin-20172782Now, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that no dead girlfriend is worth growing that kind of tragic beard for. I can also tell you that this guy’s a doofus. I mean, a) his name is Mitch. Case closed. He’s played by that dude who’s in the Maze Runner movies, which is possibly why he believes he can just become a spy, and then does. He looks up terrorist on the internet, and then just shows up at their door. It’s just that easy. I mean, it doesn’t go well and he has to be emergency extracted by the CIA or whatever, but who’s counting? Revenge, baby! And then for some totally inexplicable reason, the CIA takes a liking to this renegade with pubic hair on his chin, and they decide to train him up so his spy game’s a little more on point. Cut to: Michael Keaton, who plays Stan, a tough as nails ex-NAVY seal who takes young Mitch under his grizzled old wing. They decide to become a lame crime fighting duo, and the bad guy is none other than Stan’s former protege, who coincidentally owns an atom bomb and holds a grudge, and together they put the ass back in assassin.

This genre is crowded as hell and the fact that I merged two movies with similar themes AND titles in my head is a bad, bad sign. Painfully generic. There, I said it. In fact, generic just texted me an angry face emoji because generic would honestly be a step in the right direction for this crap. Even Michael Keaton can’t save it, nor does he really appear to be trying. The script is just that bad. The maze runner, Dylan O’Brien is clearly  not his generation’s Tom Cruise, so  I guess I’m wondering….who is?