Category Archives: Jay

The Circle

The Circle is THE company you want to be working for. It’s a blatant stand-in for Google; the ‘The Circle’ campus and work space looks identical, comes with all the crazy perks we’ve been jealously-not-quite-believingly hearing about for years: sushi bars, yoga workshops, nap pods, etc, etc. Mae (Emma Watson) is ecstatic when she’s hired for an entry level position – the salary is generous, room and board are included, the health plan is fabulous – it’s more than any millennial has the right to expect these days. The only thing The Circle asks for in return is a complete lack of privacy.

And in fact, The Circle doesn’t just ask that of employees, but of everyone joining their network. The Circle is a platform that would link all of your online accounts. You’d have one account, one username (your own, your real one), one password that links to everything, all your aps, your bank, your email, your work, social media, etc, etc. The m-442_circle_11286fdrv1rdream come true starts to feel a little…invasive to Mae. There’s no turning off, no going off-grid. Everyone participates in everything all the time! Horray! So the dream is turning out to be a bit much, but with her father (Bill Paxton) suffering from MS, it’s extremely hard to turn down.

Most of her The Circle colleagues are drinking the kool-aid but she finds a kindred spirit in skeptical Ty (John Boyega). He’s worried about how every single piece of our lives are being accessed and stored, analyzed and monetized, by The Circle: personal data is being mined to make a few people very, very rich. And if you have any presence on the internet at all, there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Circle is a terrific book by Dave Eggers. It’s an urgently fascinating story because our reality is probably only about one and a half paces behind what’s depicted in The Circle, and that’s just what we know about. We’re creeping closer and closer every day. Unfortunately it seems that Eggers’ brilliant books are not that easily adapted into films; A Hologram for the King was also a bit of a flop and that’s too bad because there’s some really thoughtful and thought-provoking material in there that’s getting lost.

The film asks more questions than it answers. In truth, it sort of lets some of the issues it raises fall away without doing them any justice. So that’s unfortunate. I still thought the movie was compelling and watchable, and Tom Hanks is of course irreproachable. I think it’s worth your time. But the book is even more worthy of your time, and if you read it, you’ll see the changes that Hollywood makes to make a story more ‘palatable.’ But I’m pretty confident that you can handle the truth. Right?

 

 

 

This was Bill Paxton’s final film. He died before it was released; a dedication in the closing credits reads ‘For Bill.” Glenne Headley, who plays his wife, died in June. She’s got a couple more movies in post-production.

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Snatched

This film was dismally received by critics but is not as terrible as you might think. A lot will depend on how you tolerate Amy Schumer. She’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I like her quite a bit, which makes me realize that she’s not anyone’s cup of tea, she’s more like a beloved Jaeger bomb. Some people don’t like or expect raunch from a female comedian but Amy Schumer’s proving that anyone can tell a gross-out joke. Score for feminism? Let’s say yes.

Of course Amy Schumer isn’t some new fangled-thing, she’s riding in on the backs of lots of incredibly funny women and Goldie Hawn is one of them. Hawn hasn’t appeared in a maxresdefaultmovie in 15 years and having her back is a blessing. Pairing these two together is great. It should have been better than great, I’ll grant you that. It should have been phenomenal. But Snatched isn’t ambitious. It’s pretty content to be a so-so movie with a bare-bones plot, some badly-drawn characters, and some overly convenient structures. It’s basically a vehicle for some jokes, and for some shining chemistry between Schumer and Hawn. If you can live with that, then you may just find something to chuckle about in Snatched.

As you may have gathered from the trailer, or heck, even just the poster, Emily (Schumer) gets broken up with right before an nonrefundable trip to Ecuador, and persuades her cautions mum Linda (Hawn) to travel with her. Emily meets a guy who’s too good to be true, and he is! He’s part of a kidnapping ring, and before you can say “maitai”, Emily and her Mom are hog-tied in a blood-splattered cell, begging for their lives, or at least their cell phones back.

The worst I’ll say about the movie is that there’s a lot of missed opportunity. It’s unfocused and flimsy. But Goldie Hawn is still magic. She sparkles up there on the big screen, and it’s kind of cool to see her taking her place as one of the matriarchs of comedy.

Girls Trip

Ugh. This kind of movie is just demeaning.

There’s a good idea in there somewhere: four friends reconnecting. That’s the dream, right? That for one weekend you can all make your schedules obey your will, find sitters for the kids, money for the trip, time off from work. And everything converges on one magical weekend during which you can let your hair down and party like you did when you first met your crew, back when you were single and carefree.

The four friends in Girls Trip haven’t gotten together in 5 years.  Ryan (Regina Hall) is an aspiring self-help guru\daytime TV star and she and her husband are about to get their big break – too bad she can’t stand his cheating ass. Sasha (Queen Latifah) is on the verge girlstrip0004.jpgof bankruptcy and the only thing that might save her is a whole bunch of hits to her celebrity gossip site…and it’s awfully tempting when your best friend is poised to become the next Oprah just as her marriage is imploding. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a less important friend so we don’t know much about her except she’s a caring single mother who wears scrubs at work and is pretty high strung. And Dina (Tiffany Haddish) is hardly a character at all, she’s just there to provide the kind of lewd laughs the other ladies are too famous for, contractually. It’s hard to believe they were ever friends, or that a weekend away together wouldn’t result in murder since in the film’s exceedingly long but comparatively short running time (2 hours), I had the panicky urge to start stuffing people in dumpsters.

Anyway. The script is atrocious. It’s Hallmark-grade MAYBE, heavy-handed as hell. It wants to be a females in New Orleans version of The Hangover, and it even steals a lot of their jokes (substitute roofies for absinthe, for example), but it’s weak. Very, very weak. But there are a few things that Girls Trip provides that you are unlikely to find elsewhere: 1. A “grapefruiting” demo (it’s a sex thing, duh – basically a grapefruit turtleneck for excessively large penises to aid in the blow-jobbing of). 2. You’re not seriously going to insist on a second item after that first one, are you? 3. Okay, fine: Kate Walsh as the token white lady who can’t stop talking in Ebonics. 4. As the movie is set at the Essence Festival, the film bloats itself with clips from performing artists such as Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, Maxwell, Babyface, and Mariah Carey. And about two dozen more. 5. Someone urinates like they’re legit trying to put out a forest fire with it, only instead of trees they drench people. And this happens twice.

But wait! There’s more: the power of female friendships, never leaving your unfaithful husband until you’ve got another prospect lined up, drugging the people you love, sexually harassing people like there’s no tomorrow, and white people using words they have no earthy business thinking let alone saying. So much fun. Girls Trip is a low-budget movie that looks low budget and feels even worse. But it put up some big numbers at the box office because there’s a dearth of actually funny movies these days – too bad this one’s no exception.

Detroit

Detroit, 1967: a veritable race riot is boiling over the streets of the inner city. Buildings are on fire, stores are looted. Cops are on edge and are arresting any black person they see. The force is 93% white; 45% of those working in black neighbourhoods were considered to be “extremely anti-Negro” and an additional 34% were “prejudiced.” Charges of police brutality are abundant. Precincts overflow with black bodies.

On the night of July 25, police converge on the Algiers motel, allegedly because a sniper might be in or around the building. The motel’s 12 occupants are rounded up, interrogated, badly beaten, and humiliated by Detroit PD, Michigan State police, and the National Guard. At the end of the night, three black teenagers are left dead, killed by police.

Why? How?

Director Kathryn Bigelow presents a harrowing, claustrophobic rendition of these events, so tense and brutal that people walked out of the screening we attended. Other than Detroit being extremely difficult to watch, there are some problems with the film: 636345219515288776-detroit-3-rgb-2-Bigelow’s treatment of the subject is at a pretty cold remove, for example. And I for one felt it was just too long. The film could have ended when the last person leaves the motel, but instead it follows the white police officers who were charged with felonious assault, conspiracy, murder, and conspiracy to commit civil rights abuse. The courtroom scenes are a long, drawn-out denouement that don’t quite jibe with the first two thirds of the film. That said, I still feel like Detroit is an extremely effective film.

First, because it’s so timely. Watching those cops get off scot-free despite confessions, and then be congratulated for beating murder charges that were well-deserved, is infuriating, and familiar. This is not “history,” not when there are unarmed black children being gunned down by the people paid to protect them to this very day. It’s an uncomfortable reminder that in the past 50 years, we’ve done nothing to address the problem. Second, and maybe more importantly, is the way the movie made me feel. I’ve already said it was maybe a little void of emotion and that’s true; what I mean is how it made me evaluate my own filters. As sympathetic to the cause as I am, I’m still a white lady, and I experienced the film and the events depicted within it as a white person with all the privilege inherent in those words. The motel scenes are grueling and I had visceral reactions to them. Occasionally I caught myself frustrated with how the characters were responding to the cops, and I’d have to check myself. This is the fundamental takeaway of the film: my experience with police officers is essentially just very, very different. I wasn’t born with a historical fear of cops. My parents and grandparents didn’t raise me to be afraid of them. The colour of my skin protects me from the worst. My entitlement trusts in my human rights. My privilege demands that people in positions of authority will respect my unalienable civil liberties. The last interaction with a police officer I had was the guy directing pedestrians leaving a Cirque du Soleil show. The last time we were pulled over for speeding, there wasn’t so much as an apology uttered for being caught red-handed. These things don’t feel like privilege because they’re things we believe we’re owed, but it is privilege because not everyone gets to feel the same way.

Maybe it’s not perfect, but Detroit asks some difficult questions, which makes it an important film. It’s excruciating because it needs to be, and you need to watch it.

The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls lived a turbulent childhood: her parents bustled her and her 3 siblings from town to town, evading bill collectors, never quite having enough money for both food and her father’s insatiable thirst. Poverty and addictions pock her youth, but for all their struggles, her mother would never leave her father, and the kids soon realized they’d need to fend for themselves, each disappearing to the big city as soon as it was feasible (a real challenge when someone is constantly drinking up all the money).

Walls went on to write a memoir detailing the hardships she lived through, and that tgc_d02_00156_00157_comp_r2.jpgbook became this movie, though something was lost getting from A to B. The book pulls no punches. Her parents are complex characters, and their children have conflicted feelings toward them. The movie’s a little more pat, the trajectory a little more Hollywood. Someone decided to apply some spit shine to this story, a story that’s naturally very dark and brooding now has themes of hope and redemption that maybe don’t belong.

I can’t say what exactly is wrong with the film except it’s just too easy. The grit is gone. Sure Jeannette’s father Rex is charming but he’s also kind of a monster. He’s a negligent parent who abuses his wife and kids and helps keep family molestation on the down low. And of course he wants deathbed forgiveness. Meanwhile his wife is a “free spirit” who chooses homelessness over independence from the man threatening her family’s well being. Neither parent is capable of putting their children’s needs first, or of meeting those needs even if they ever did. Which they don’t.

But The Glass Castle is worth a watch for the performances alone. As Jeannette, Brie Larson lives up to her previous Oscar win, but it’s Woody Harrelson as Rex who you’ll remember. He’s tortured and endearing and inspiring and hateful. Is this the film he’ll win his Oscar for? I wouldn’t be disappointed if he did. But shame on Hollywood for trying to put gloss and a positive spin on childhood poverty. These kids were failed not just by their parents but by the system. And now their brave story is being watered down to make it more palatable for film audiences. Shame.

Naked

Naked is Groundhog Day for people who hate themselves.

Rob  (Marlon Wayans) is about to get married to a woman (Regina Hall) who’s maybe a little out of his league and maybe he’s a little nervous about it. Her dad (Dennis Haysbert, aka, the Allstate Guy) is a vocal skeptic and would rather see his baby girl marry someone a little more worthy – like her ex-boyfriend Cody (Scott Foley) who is inexplicably invited to this wedding.

One small wrinkle: he keeps waking up naked in an elevator and he’s got an hour to make it to the wedding. But he keeps not quite getting there, so when the church bells MV5BOTIyYjBhYjMtYzgzYy00NWQ4LWI3ZDUtOTU1M2NmMGQ2ZmQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDQ0MTYzMDA@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_ring without him exchanging vows, the day resets and he has to do it all over again. It’s the premise of Groundhog Day, only without self-respect or any laughter whatsoever. Bill Murray had to learn to be a better person, and while the script eventually decides that Rob’s goal is be a worthy husband, his real daily achievement is just covering up his nudity in a series of wacky outfits. Oh, and sometimes chilling with Brian McKnight – because that’s totally how I’d prioritize my time if I had an hour to escape a horrifying time loop: 90s slow jams.

This is a Netflix original movie that will make you question whether movies should be made at all. If you’ve seen it, I’m sorry. Take some time. Pet a dog. Drink some tea out of an inordinately cute cup. Maybe make a dent in your reading stack. But do come back. For every bad movie on Netflix, there’s a good one. One day I will crack the exact ratio, but until I do, know this: on our site, the category ‘Netflix and chill’ simply means the movie is found on Netflix, it is not an endorsement; good movies are categorized as ‘what to watch on Netflix.’ Netflix is a black hole of movies and finding something watchable takes some mining, but don’t despair, they do exist.

Naked tries to be Groundhog’s twin and winds up its antithesis. Hard pass.

 

Land of the Lost

Sean came across this on Netflix and was kind of astounded that it existed. What was Sean up to in 2009 that this one passed him by? Well, he made a giant move to a new city in search of a new job, and was dating new and exciting women, unaware that he’d meet his future wife in just a few days. But even if life was a little calmer for you in June 2009, this film may still have avoided your radar because basically it didn’t make anyone’s. It was a huge flop, and even the president of Universal (Ronald Meyer) disavowed the movie, calling it “crap.”

I’ve never seen the TV show upon which it is loosely-and-not-really based and now I MV5BODU5MGZlYTAtZmM3OS00MjFlLWEzNzAtZmY3YjU4ZjY1NzhjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjgzNDQyMjE@._V1_hope I never do, its legacy forever tarnished by this steaming piece of dung. Land of the Lost is intentionally camp. The effects are deliberately horrible. This doesn’t make it okay. I guess “camp” implies that you’ll be having fun, and I most decidedly was not. I was just sitting there with a pout on my face and a game of phone-Boggle in hand, just to stave off complete boredom.

The script was lazy, the characters confounding. Will Ferrell, who stars as paleontologist Dr. Rick Marshall, does little to endear us. For me, Ferrell’s pretty hit or miss, and in this movie he can’t land a damn thing. Paired with Danny McBride, it’s suicide city. It’s just inexcusable and I’m glad it was an embarrassment to the studio because they deserve to sit on the throne of shame wearing the hat of dunces while enduring finger pointing and aggressive sniggering for this sin. I can’t imagine who the target audience was – it’s too crude for a family movie but too tame for anyone else, and too unfunny to even become passable fare on late-night cable. This movie feels like Will Ferrell’s caution flag: his career has only slumped since this vulgarity was released. Has he been funny at all since? Frankly, he was only sporadically funny before. This is where his career jumps the shark. May it rest in peace.

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day has recently been resurrected as a Broadway musical, and Bill Murray went to see it on Tuesday. And Bill Murray went to see it on Wednesday. Is Bill Murray fucking with us?

By all accounts he enjoyed the show, laughing and pumping his fist during musical numbers. Not all of us are destined for NYC this summer, but the good news is, you can catch Groundhog Day pretty much any old time, and here are but a few reasons why you should revisit this classic over and over again.

  1. Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role but realized Hanks was “too nice” and went knocking elsewhere. Michael Keaton turned it down. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Howie Mandel, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and John Travolta were also considered before Bill Murray was cast.
  2. Harold Ramis has a cameo in the film as Phil’s neurologist. Also appearing, if you shannon-groundhog-day.jpgwatch dedicatedly enough: Michael Shannon in his big screen debut – he’s Fred, one of half of the young couple who’s supposed to get married that day.
  3. Although a family of groundhogs was raised specifically for this movie, when Bill Murray was severely bitten not once, but twice, he had to receive rabies treatment, which are rather painful injections.
  4. Although set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the film was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just 50 miles from Murray’s hometown, Wilmette. Tourism in Punxsutawney spiked after the film’s release, but it’s in Wilmette where you’ll find a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Phil continually steps in a puddle, and another marked “Ned’s Corner” where Phil perpetually meets Ned the insurance salesman (Stephen Tobolowsky).
  5. There are 38 days depicted partially or in full in the movie. Ramis said originally he wanted about 10 000 years worth of days and ended up with what he considers to be a decade’s worth which is still a really, really, sad, lonely long time to be reliving the same day.
  6. Bill Murray was offered a “spit bucket” for the scene in which he gorges on pastries. That was a terrifically bad idea on his part…guess who got a tummy ache?
  7. In one scene, Phil throws the alarm clock, destroying it. In real life, Murray’s throw did little to damage the thing so the crew took baseball bats to it to smash it up. And yes, it really did keep playing that stupid song, just like in the movie.
  8. Murray was going through a divorce at the time and compensated by becoming obsessed with the movie, calling up Ramis with all kinds of questions. Ramis tired of it and sent the writer (Danny Rubin) to sit down with him and iron out all the wrinkles. This caused a rift in their friendship – Murray didn’t speak to Ramis for many years.
  9. When Phil is at the piano teacher’s house, it’s actually Bill Murray playing. He can’t read music but plays by ear, and learned that passage by heart to play it in the movie. [It’s Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini, fyi]
  10. Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Stephen Tobolowsky have all served as honourary Grand Marshals in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
  11. In Swedish, the movie’s title is translated as “Monday Every Day” – although in 1993, when the movie came out, Groundhog Day was on a Tuesday. The specific day of the week is not mentioned in the film.
  12. In once scene, Phil throws himself from a bell tower. The building is actually the opera house in Woodstock, Illinois, where local legend has it that the ghost of a young girl haunts the building ever since she fell off a balcony section and died.
  13. uxyA34o.gifThe famous line “Don’t drive angry!” was improvised by Murray when the groundhog in his lap was aggressively trying to escape by climbing over the steering wheel. [Yes, this was one of the times when Bill got bit]
  14. In the final shot, we see Phil carry Rita over the gate before climbing over it himself. This may seem romantic but was unscripted: in real life, the gate was simply frozen shut.

Opening Night

Topher Grace plays a failed Broadway star turned production manager and we, the audience, are invited behind the red velvet curtain as he wrangles an eccentric and needy cast onto the stage for opening night of a new Broadway musical.

The musical is about one-hit-wonders of the 1980s starring NSYNC’s “other guy”, JC Chasez, and it’s an absolute pile of crap. But garbage or no, Nick (Grace) has to put out fires backstage (sometimes literally) because THE SHOW MUST GO ON. Even though the kind thing would be to put it out of its misery.

I always admire people who can laugh at themselves and JC Chasez certainly fulfills that opening-night-movie-topher-gracerole in this production, openly mocking his boyband status. But the script leans way too hard on these jokes, making it painfully obvious there’s just little else to this so-called film. It’s raunchy but without edge. The material wears exceedingly thin after the first several minutes and then you’re stuck behind the scenes of a musical you wouldn’t see for free. Supporting actors Anne Heche and Taye Diggs fail to bring anything interesting to the table, and Rob Riggle is downright irritating. Riggle does ONE thing, and that thing is annoying as fuck. It’s beyond time for him to just go away already.

Anyway, this is a too-short review just to say: skip it.

 

Out To Sea

Herb and Charlie are best friends and brothers-in-law. Herb is the responsible one, Charlie the scamp. So of course it’s Charlie’s idea to scam a free cruise by pretending to be a dance instructor, and to trick his recently widowed bud Herb into doing the same (though at least Herb’s got some legit moves).

Of course, Charlie’s hoping to do more than just dance on this cruise; he’s hoping to score himself a rich wife. Herb (Jack Lemmon), still in love with his deceased wife, is not ready lemmon-and-matthau.jpgfor the swinging bachelor existence Charlie has planned for them on board, but that’s only half his trouble. A snarky entertainment director is on to them and their little ruse could cost them thousands of dollars that neither can afford (hello, gambling my old friend!) if found out and no amount of Rue McClanahan flirtation can save them.

Matthau and Lemmon are of course good for some madcap hilarity. I’m struck by how physical Matthau’s comedy continues to be into his old age. This movie is pretty stupid plot-wise, but the chemistry between old pals Matthau and Lemmon is tonnes of fun and magical as ever. This is the 9th of their 10 collaborations and you never get tired of seeing them together. Does it make up for a weak script? Not really. But if you’re reaching all the way back to 1997, you’re doing it because these are beloved figures who crack you up doing their soft-shoe shtick, not because you’re expecting to uncover a hidden gem that’s somehow lain dormant for two decades. Jack and Walt were the OGs as far as Bromance is concerned. Matt and Ben have a long way to go before we’re willing to let them flirt so shamelessly with our grandmas.