Tag Archives: Amazon Prime

I Saw The Light

This movie meant to be Hank Williams’ Walk The Line, but it fails in every way imaginable.

Tom Hiddleston, as the country-western crooner, is no Joaquin Phoenix, and I do mean that in the nastiest way possible. I’m never a fan of Hiddleston, but in this he’s charmless and unforgivably bland, though it’s at least as much the fault as writer-director Marc Abraham who apparently thinks Hank Williams is the most boring man on earth but decided to make a movie about him anyway.

It doesn’t help that Hank Williams just isn’t that interesting a subject. Oh, he drinks, you say? Cheats on his wife? Squabbles with his bandmates? As if we have seen MV5BMTg3MDcxNzc3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMxNDA1MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_exactly those issues in better movies than this a hundred times before. And Williams just doesn’t have the allure of Johnny Cash or the talent of Ray Charles or the magnetism of James Brown. He’s just an entitled white dude who made life rough for himself. He made some music and then he died. Hank Williams may be a legend, but you’d never know it from this movie. It makes him seem banal and tiresome. And that’s gotta be hard to do to a man known as the King of Country Music, influencer of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, prolific song writer, winner of a posthumous Pulitzer for craftsmanship.

Of course, the film itself is unstructured and just sort of plods along, dragging its feet through the obligatory musician-biopic tropes like womanizing and shenanigans on tour. Abraham seems to be a pretty dull fellow and he’s fully committed to bathing everyone else in that same flat light. The only thing consistent about I Saw The Light is how relentlessly lifeless it is. Neither Hiddleston nor Elizabeth Olsen can do a single thing about it, and you’d kind of expect more from a Loki-Scarlett Witch combo. There should be sparks at the very least. Instead, Olsen’s Audrey Williams (Hank’s first wife) has a heart full of self-interest and their turbulent marriage seems always to be two paths rapidly diverging. Only Hank’s semi-weird relationship with his mother (Cherry Jones) provides the slightest kindling, but that’s neglected and the smoke dissipates before there’s fire. Pity.

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Guava Island

Donald Glover dropped a 55 minute short film this weekend – it streamed on Amazon Prime, and at Coachella. Music, TV, movies: there seems to be nothing he can’t do, and do extremely well, at that. His multi-facetedness might be annoying if he wasn’t so actually talented.

MV5BYWVhMGViNzEtMjRiZC00ZmRlLWEzZTUtYTVlYjAwYzBlMDYxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTAxMTcwMTEz._V1_The film, Guava Island, is hard to describe. It’s really more a parable than a traditional narrative, so don’t get hung up on that. And all praise to Childish Gambino: do not be surprised when a LOT of his music inevitably pops up.

He plays Deni, just a dude on this fictional island who is about to bring his music to an all-night music festival that’s super frowned upon by the island’s big boss, Red Cargo. Red can’t tolerate a music festival that might mean the island’s factory workers call in sick for the work the next day, a Sunday, including Deni’s girlfriend Kofi (Rihanna) and friend Yara (Letitia Wright).

It’s the perfect setting to talk about corruption, and the influence of art, its ability to unite a people. But it’s not the perfect medium. It’s not that the film is too short, it’s that the idea is both half-baked and heavy-handed. It made me wish it was less of a movie and more of a visual album, like Beyonce’s Lemonade, because that’s when the movie truly came live for me, when Glover lets his music take over and the reasons we love him and frequent collaborator/director Hiro Murai are allowed to shine down upon the island.

Rihanna and Wright are criminally underused; their main purpose is to smile admiringly at Glover. Rightly so, perhaps, but to have both of these women on hand and not give them something to do seems wasteful, and a tease. Maybe this concept works better for a Coachella audience. Few are likely to have stood in place to watch the film straight through, but maybe just standing under its shadow is enough.

The Jane Austen Book Club

I didn’t think I needed The Jane Austen Book Club in my life. Hollywood has taught me that movies based on book clubs just don’t really feel cinematic. But I saw that it was early (2007) Emily Blunt and I was tired of searching for something better, so I settled.

Lesson #1: trust your instincts.

Jocelyn (Maria Bello) has just lost her best friend and life partner, who happened to be a dog. Some may think the funeral is a little over the top, but Jocelyn’s grief is real, and her friends have gathered round to help her through a difficult time – only Sylvia’s husband MV5BMjMzNDc0MTI4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTAxMzc3._V1_Daniel (Jimmy Smits) can’t seem to keep the snide comments to himself. Turns out, that’s not the only thing he can’t keep to himself as he soon confessed to Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), devoted wife of a quarter century, mother of his children, that he’s seeing another woman and that leaving the other woman is non-negotiable. So. Jocelyn sets aside her own grief to take care of her flailing friend. Sylvia’s daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace) moves back in so she’s not alone and pal Bernadette (Kathy Baker) has the genius idea to establish a Jane Austen book club to provide a distraction. Since there are 6 novels to discuss, they’re in need of 2 more members. Bernadette brings aboard Prudie (Emily Blunt), an unfulfilled French teacher yearning for more than this provincial life, and Jocelyn recruits a young man and virtual stranger, Grigg (Hugh Dancy), as perhaps bait to liven up Sylvia’s gloomy divorce.

You can already tell that the book club is mostly an excuse to bitch about men (and women), and then we occasionally follow the women home to watch them make their various mistakes in real time, which is charming. Hint: that was sarcasm. The ensemble work between the women is actually pretty good but it’s an otherwise formulaic, sentimental, maudlin piece of crap pushed by Big Kleenex to turn women into weepies. Plus, it can’t help but be compared unfavourably to the Austen works discussed in the film. And that they should have seen coming.

Paper Man

Richard Dunn (Jeff Daniels) is a failed writer, and perhaps just a failure, period. His successful surgeon wife Claire (Lisa Kudrow) has rented him a little writerly cottage in Long Island and gifted him a laptop as well as the time and space needed to get to work on his second novel. Despite that sounding like absolute pure heaven to most of us, Richard doesn’t manage a shred of gratitude. Instead he wonders if this is in fact a trial separation in sheep’s clothing.

So I guess that’s why he doesn’t feel particularly guilty when he spends this time not at his desk but getting to know a teenage girl named Abby (Emma Stone). Abby is a lonely, solitary sort of person, despite the fact that she has a devoted friend and a bad boyfriend. She and Richard are practically kindred spirits, which they discover when he repeatedly hires her as a babysitter despite the fact that he has no kids. Yes, it plays as creepy as it sounds. And yet a friendship blooms in this unlikely, inhospitable place.

Despite Richard’s middle age, he is a child. He is petulant. Self-indulgent, he sees only MV5BMTMyNTk2MjcwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTMyNzUzMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1501,1000_AL_his own need and sorrow. This is further indulged by his imaginary friend, Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds, before he played Deadpool or even Green Lantern), a super hero type in cape and tights who tells him what he wants to hear.

You can imagine what it might be like to be married to a Richard. This is a coming of age tale for a man who is way too old to need one. A late bloomer or just too pathetic for words? Richard straddles that line, uncomfortably. But he’s reaching out, so not all hope is lost. He’s perhaps reaching out to the wrong person, to an inappropriate person. How is this relationship likely to be interpreted – by his wife, or her parents, for example? And yet this is what it is to be human. It’s all about the connection. Richard and Abby can truly be themselves around each other in ways that they haven’t achieved anywhere else.

Jeff Daniels continues to be good in dark roles. Emma Stone is vulnerable and feverish. They’re a couple of wounded characters and they ooze their indie drama. There’s a danger of drowning in all the mutual wallowing. For all its quirk, Paper Man might be lumped into those “man-child-struggling-to-grow-up” films (coming of middle age?), but it is saved by some very compelling performances.

A Case of You

What had happened was:

  • Sean and I agreed it was finally time to watch Hereditary. Which we’ve been saying for a month. Which we’ve been avoiding since it screened last March at SXSW, and having already reached my terror quota with opening night’s A Quiet Place, I just couldn’t bear, even though my beloved Toni Collette would be in attendance. But as soon as we had the mouse hovering over Hereditary to select it, I lost my nerve and ran away to heat up soup, challenging Sean to find a suitable replacement. Or any replacement
  • Sean and I flipped through the entirety of Netflix, knew intuitively that we’d already watched anything worth watching, so chose Counterfeiting in Suburbia. “Based on a true story” about teenage girls literally just printing and then passing off dollar bills to fund their wildest shopping dreams. It felt like a movie your friend put together for some hokey class in high school, and will maybe receive a C- for, if the teacher is feeling generous. The script is basically just the worst thing ever, but since it’s delivered by wooden puppets, it doesn’t even get the benefit of human warmth. Just kidding. I think those were actual girls. We turned it off after a brutal 12 minutes.
  • So we went over to Amazon Prime, where we found the remnants of Justin Long’s career. Someone still believes in this guy? Weird. Anyway, he plays a fledgling writer named Sam who goes to his local coffee haunt to not write the next great novel. And he obsesses over the barista, Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood). When she gets fired, he decides that he can’t just ask her out like a normal person, he has to turn mv5bztmyzdbjmjktmtk5nc00nmexlwe5mdetnjezzde0ngixmwu4l2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzg3mja0njm@._v1_into her perfect man first, and he does this by stalking her on Facebook and getting into, or claiming to get into, every single thing she ever mentioned. It’s gross. And not just because it’s Justin Long, though that doesn’t help. Anyway, the most random cast of characters enables this travesty: an emo Peter Dinklage, an inexcusably Sam Rockwell, a puzzling Sienna Miller, and Vince Vaughn very much as you’d expect. Anyway, it’s hard to buy into the rom-com aspect when to romance is actually criminal harassment and the comedy makes itself scarce.
  • In conclusion, do not believe that our watching A Case Of You to completion is an endorsement of it over Counterfeiting in Suburbia. It’s not. It’s just that Sean was giving me a back rub and we couldn’t find the remote.

Destination Wedding

Lindsay and Frank hate each other on sight so of course they find out they’re on the way to the same destination wedding. Lindsay dated Keith, the groom, 6 years ago and is still looking for closure. Looking for it at his wedding is the worst idea ever. Frank is the groom’s brother, yet he and Lindsay have never met (nor has he met the bride-to-be) because he detests his family and normally avoids them faithfully.

Lindsay and Frank are of course the odds and ends at this small destination wedding, so they inevitably end up paired together at event after event. Oh the horror!  They’re enemies! They’ll never learn to tolerate each other let alone fall in love!

mv5bnzu3njy3ngytndu0ys00nmi3lthlyjutmdgzmgjmodrmmwjixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyody1ndk1nje@._v1_sx1777_cr0,0,1777,999_al_Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, together again. If you’ve been pining for their coupling since the late 90s, oh boy have I got the movie for you. It’s Sunset-style, you know the talky Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy trilogy where they just walk and talk and talk and talk? Well, Destination Wedding has Sunset ambitions, only its fitbit registers far less walking. Loads of talking though, in fact, Ryder and Reeves are the only two talking roles, which means the writing really matters. But writer-director Victor Levin is no Richard Linklater. And while Ryder and Reeves have their own quirky chemistry, their characters are kinda dicks.

And I get it, the unlikable protagonist, the anti-hero if you must, is a legit thing, and it’s maybe even kind of fun under the right circumstances. And maybe this anti-romantic comedy featuring two screaming misanthropes had some appeal at first – a twist on the genre that could have gone either way. But the way it chose was down the bottomless quarry where Ryder and Reeves drown in their characters’ cynicism. Watching Destination Wedding (subtitled: A Narcissist Can’t Die Because Then the Entire World Would End) is like going to a wedding where you don’t like the couple, and they seat you at the single-and-bitter table where no amount of champagne and wedding cake can make you not want to hang yourself as your table-mates make convincing but unintentional arguments for Darwinism.

Uncle Drew

If anyone was going to love Uncle Drew, it would have been me. After all, in the early 90s my bedroom walls were covered with posters of Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller, among others (Michael Jordan’s posters covered the most real estate, of course). Also in the early 90s, I watched Chris Webber call a timeout he didn’t have (after travelling first) and cost his team a championship (which would have been lost either way since that team has been erased from the NCAA record books).

Many years later, I got to watch Kyrie Irving take on Russell Westbrook live in Oklahoma City, as Kyrie made everyone besides Russ look like they were standing still.

And like most basketball fans, I never sought out Nate Robertson or had any of his posters, though I am sure I saw him win a few dunk contests (somehow he won more of those than Jordan).

Kyrie Irving plays Uncle Drew, an old guy who’s still got game, and who gets recruited onto a streetball team by Get Out’s Lil Rey Howery in order to beat a team coached by Howery’s childhood nemesis, Nick Kroll. Uncle Drew has one condition: Howery has to help reunite Uncle Drew’s old team. Reluctant but out of options, Howery agrees and heads out on a road trip to search for a bunch of old guys made up to look slightly older (the three all-time greats I mentioned above, along with Robinson).

From L to R: Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, Reggie Miller and Kyrie Irving on the set of UNCLE DREW. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

Seeing Shaq, Reggie, and C-Webb team up with one of the most exciting players in today’s NBA should have been enough for me to somewhat enjoy this movie (with superdunker Aaron Gordon and WNBA/Team U.S.A. legend Lisa Leslie as added bonuses). But it wasn’t. The basketball scenes really weren’t exceptional, and with such a skilled roster, they should have been. They NEEDED to be, because as hard as Howery, Kroll and Tiffany Haddish try, the attempts at comedy in this movie fall flat. So all that’s left is the basketball, which is not even Blue Chips quality (at least Blue Chips features prime Shaq instead of Uncle Drew’s heart attack Shaq).

The Uncle Drew concept made for an entertaining Pepsi ad because Kyrie Irving made highlight-reel plays wearing several coats of old man makeup. Not surprisingly, that concept wears very, very thin when stretched to feature length. The old man gimmick and a bit of nostalgia are really all that Uncle Drew (the movie) has to offer, so it’s simply not strong enough for me to recommend, as much as I wish I could.