As a philosophical question, it’s emotionally fraught and almost unbearable to contemplate. Can you put a dollar amount on a life? You can, actually. Uncomfortably. And people have. They do it all the time. You may even know how much yours is worth in the event of your death. Will you have an insurance payout? How do insurers decide how much you’re worth? What if you have an accident? What would a court of law determine to be your worth? Lawyers wrangle over this number all the time, but I doubt anyone’s every been satisfied with their answers.
When al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out deadly suicide attacks 9/11, the loss was astronomical and the country mourned. But as weeks and months passed, that loss began to be quantified, and it fell to someone to develop a formula that would establish a financial settlement for each of the victims. Under the formula, the families of deceased CEOs would receive more than the families of deceased janitors. It wasn’t fair, but maybe fair wasn’t the point. Maybe it wasn’t possible.
Congress hand-picked Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) to lead the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Armed with a calculator, he and partner Camille Biros (Amy Ryan) had the unenviable task of calculating something incalculable while looking the victims’ families in the eye and hearing their devastating stories of heartbreak and loss.
One claimant in particular (Stanley Tucci) challenges Feinberg to confront the humanity of his job, maybe for the first time in his impressive career. Worth is a story about compassion. Given its content and context, it would be easy to turn maudlin and dramatic, but Keaton keeps the whole thing in check with a restrained, stoic performance – not unemotional, but an excellent counterpoint to Tucci, who eschews melodrama in favour of simple human connection. It’s a nice movie about a tragic event. Check it out on Netflix.
Since their son Ronnie died 5 years ago on prom night, Charlene (Amy Ryan) and Richard (Greg Kinnear) have grieved differently, and separated. Charlene and her younger son Philip (Nick Robinson) still live at home and are surprised one day to find Ronnie’s girlfriend Melissa (Margaret Qualley) on their doorstep and even more surprised to hear her news. She’s pregnant. With Ronnie’s child. Yes, Ronnie who died five years ago. He’s the only boy she was ever with.
Charlene and Philip remain skeptical despite Melissa’s “proof,” ie, a recording of a psychic reading that confirmed it. Melissa’s been distraught ever since she lost her boyfriend, and has been obsessed with his death. Her parents have thrown her out because of her interest in mysticism so she lives with a sweet elderly couple, Bill (Brian Cox) and Gail (Blythe Danner), who have all but adopted her. But Bill’s health is questionable, and while Gail worries about him, we worry that Bill and Gail may not always be around to care for Melissa or her baby on the way. Meanwhile, Melissa isn’t totally healthy herself. She’s had blackouts recently and needs to take care of herself and the baby that’s growing in her belly. Shaken, Charlene has been researching furiously, but rather than learn anything useful about frozen sperm, but learns that her ex-husband Richard has been secretly been paying Melissa’s rent at Bill and Gail’s. Philip’s also holding on to his own secrets; there are so many threads to entangle that Charlene won’t be able to keep up, and frankly, neither will we.
Turns out, dead baby daddies were the least of our worries. Rowan Athale’s thriller isn’t thrilling in the traditional sense, but it did surprise and horrify me, and I did find it compelling and interesting. It’s a great cast, a little wasted, who take us to places far scarier than merely the supernatural. The film is indeed quite strange, unapologetically so, and while it is not and never was true, it is a pretty decent watch.
When Shannan runs screaming from a home in a gated community on Long Island and places a frantic call to 911, it takes police an hour to respond. They find nothing amiss but Shannan is never seen again. The cops’ lackluster investigation accomplishes very little but coincidentally they stumble upon a dozen bodies in this very same community, all of them sex workers fitting Shannan’s general description, but none of them her. And the police do truly treat it like a coincidence; they announce that her disappearance is unrelated and are largely unconcerned.
Shannan’s mother, Mari (Amy Ryan) doesn’t fit the profile of a grieving mother. Her family isn’t made for television. There’s precious little sympathy extended to victims like Shannan. They live a “high risk” lifestyle so when bad things happen, the victims are blamed, the police are unimpressed, the culprits allowed to disappear, or worse, to re-offend. Certainly in this case, the Long Island serial killer appears to have more than a dozen victims, and those are just the skeletons police have accidentally stumbled upon. Imagine if they were actually looking.
Shannan Gilbert was a daughter, a friend, a big sister. She was a real person. This is a true story. Her short life was filled with pain and because there were no easy choices for her, her death was not a tragedy worth investigating. This movie doesn’t have a real ending because Shannan’s murder remains unsolved. Director Liz Garbus allows us to sit with this reality, a small and meager tribute to a life cut short. The film flirts with different suspects only to highlight that the police do not. This entire investigation (or lack thereof) is either gross incompetence or a complicit coverup. The truths here are ugly, the endings aren’t happy. But the film is suffused with a roiling anger that is perhaps the important take away of Lost Girls – a sense of injustice for young, vulnerable women, whom society has judged not worthy of its concern.
Mindy Kaling is an actress, a director, a producer, an Emmy-nominated writer. She’s written best-sellers and acted alongside Oprah and created television series. You may not know that her foot in the door was portraying Ben Affleck in an off-Broadway play she co-wrote with her best friend called Matt & Ben, about how the pair came to write Good Will Hunting. I wish to god I had seen it.
She was hired to write for The Office when she was just 24 years old – the only woman in a room full of men. She was technically a diversity hire, part of NBC’s diversity writing programme, but don’t mistake that for a lack of qualification. “For a long time I was really embarrassed about that. No one [on The Office] said anything to me about it, but they all knew and I was acutely aware of that. It took me a while to realize that I was just getting the access other people had because of who they knew.” Mindy’s parents, an architect and an OB-GYN, immigrated to the U.S. from India (via Nigeria) only months before she was born, and gave her the most American of names, ripped from their favourite sitcom, Mork & Mindy.
In Late Night, Kaling plays Molly Patel, also a diversity hire, straight from a chemical plant (don’t call it a factory!). She’s hired to be the first and badly needed female writer on Katherine Newbury’s show as its steady ratings decline threatens its existence. Kaling wrote the role of Newbury specifically for Emma Thompson and it is indeed a perfect fit. Newbury is exacting and imperious, but has grown out of touch with her core audience. Molly is exactly the injection of colour and culture that this writer’s room needs even though it longs to stay beige. Of course, Kaling had to invent a fictional world in which a woman is actually allowed to host a late night show, but once she does (and we get over that depressing fact), she invents a very good one, one in which her very successful host is over 50 and undeniably at the top of her game, but hasn’t had to sacrifice her life to gain such a position. Newbury has both a love life (John Lithgow) and a sex life, and she still gets to be the boss. Kaling is so devoted to this character, she took a page from her parents’ baby naming book and called her own daughter Katherine.
Late Night is a lot of laughs, and it benefits from the excellent chemistry between Kaling and Thompson. I suppose it takes a woman to write two such meaty yet tender roles for women. Roles that don’t apologize for emotions and characters who don’t get disempowered for expressing them. And a female director to give these ladies their space to create complexity. Late Night tackles a lot of themes as you might imagine, but it never loses its sharp and incisive comedy. Thompson proves more than able, with impeccable timing and buckets of condescension. She’s formidable. Meanwhile, Kaling orbits around her, not just absorbing her light but casting her own glow as well. They don’t diminish each other, they brighten the whole damn screen. It’s a party where ambitious women, perhaps for the first time this century, are truly celebrated. Yes there were applause-worthy moments, though the theatre I was in was unfortunately a packed but non-clapping one (well, okay, save for me, who couldn’t resist). And there’s a lesson plan for how to apologize correctly and take responsibility like a big kid. But mostly there’s just a lot of zing, and a surprising amount of relatability [My work recently turned one of two women’s washrooms in the building into a “gender neutral” washroom which is nice in theory but in practice has become the washroom where men go to poop. Because men, who still had 2 bathrooms to themselves, think it’s more important to stink up a third than to create safe spaces. They’re literally shitting their privilege all over the place.]
Kaling wrote this movie while she was pregnant, and on the set of A Wrinkle In Time. She shot it while literally breastfeeding her daughter. Motherhood is not slowing her down, it’s just another bullshit hurdle she’s going to plough straight through while we lay down our dollars like a red carpet made out of green because she is the Queen and we her loyal subjects.
Wow, fucking Steve Carell, eh? What are we doing to deserve him?
Some say burying a child is the hardest thing a parent can do, but Beautiful Boy proves there are much, much worse things: watching your child suffer; watching him kill himself, slowly; having him cry for help and refusing; waiting for That Call; mourning him while he’s still alive. For years Steve Carell was America’s favourite clown, but his movie career has proven him equally capable in both the comedy and dramatic worlds.
Beautiful Boy is a memoir of sorts, written by a father in crisis. David (Carell) has always been close to his son, until suddenly he’s not. In just a matter of weeks he’s felt him slip away, and now he’s questioning whether he ever knew him at all.
Nic (Timothee Chalamet)was not an abused kid, was well cared-for during childhood. But he chases the high, craves it, needs it. And crystal meth is the absolute worst drug of choice, its use destroying nerve endings, requiring the user to need more each time just to feel the same high. Those escalating quantities worsen the addiction, making his body crave it even more: a vicious cycle. It doesn’t always happen like this, but sometimes it’s a normal, happy, middle-class kid from a good and loving family who falls prey. Nic feels he’s disappointing his family. His parents feel they’ve somehow failed him. But now what? Do you support/enable him indefinitely, do you watch his teeth rot and his flesh waste and the life behind his eyes disappear? Do you allow his behaviour to tear your whole family apart, exposing younger siblings to it? Or do you cut him loose, not knowing where he is or if he’s safe, hoping every day that his rock bottom isn’t 6 feet deep?
I am astonished by the mastery of Steve Carell as he shows the impact of these decisions with his drawn, haggard face. He isn’t an overly emotive man, nor does he need to be to convey his agony. But the movie itself never quite comes together as successfully as the performances. I did appreciate the structure and how it mimics the highs and lows and false promises of recovery and relapse, but audiences may find it frustrating.
Beautiful Boy was never going to be a beautiful movie, but it works better as a portrait of a family in crisis than it does as a treatise on addiction. This story belongs more to the father, safe if worried in his warm, comfortable home. His son, who disappears for large chunks, is not shown in the direst of conditions in which he must live. If anything, the film nearly glamourizes drug use without being honest about the consequences for balance, which feels a little irresponsible.
This movie will be remembered for its performances, Carell’s especially, but not its content.
Who is this movie made for? It talks down to its audience like we’re 5 year olds, yet it stars a 27 year old man playing a broody, 16 year old teenager. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t 27 when it was filmed – maybe he was 24. Ish. This movie was slated for release in 2015 but was delayed two years for “post-production” – it lost Viacom a LOT of money before it was even released.
Lucas Till plays the “teenager” in question, old enough to shave, but still makes fast-car noises with his mouth as he pretends to drive a car.
In a small town, an oil company is drilling for oil. They probably should have stopped when they detected a possible ecosystem but guess what? Oil guys are not super ethical! Surprising, I know. Of course something happens: something comes out of the hole. Turns out it’s a new life form, monster-ish in appearance, with a mean craving for oil. It rips through cars in the search for “food.” Tripp is busy brooding away with a strand of perfect blonde hair in his eyes when he encounters the monster he names Creach, and of course befriends it. Creach somehow becomes the motor in his beat up truck, making it go real fast and stuff.
Barry Pepper, Amy Ryan, Danny Glover, and Rob Lowe all have embarrassing roles in this piece of shit. There are trucks and there are monsters and there isn’t much of a story in between. Even my 5 year old nephew would stay away from this thing, and he loves both monsters and trucks. He does not, however, appreciate any love interest in his movies, and by making the protagonist a love-struck teenager, the film effectively eviscerates its only possible target audience.
There goes 104 precious minutes of my life, time I could have spent learning napkin folding or looking for love on Craigslist. What a wreck.
Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson meet up at their 20th high school reunion. Hart, voted most likely to succeed, once the prom king and a popular athlete, is now a mild-mannered accountant living in a nice comfortable rut. Dwayne Johnson is ecstatic to reconnect. A high school loser, he’s gone through life without many friends despite the fact that he’s reformed himself and leads a life of intrigue. Unfortunately for Hart, that intrigue’s about to hit a little close to home.
The movie opens with a fat joke. A 7 minute, visual fat joke. I didn’t laugh. I’m uncomfortable laughing at any joke where the punch line is somebody’s body. Dwayne Johnson IS the fat joke, seen dancing in a CGI fat suit, butt-naked, in a high school locker room. You’ve seen the previews, haven’t you? It’s brutal. That pivotal high school prank has haunted him his whole life, even now that he’s big and buff and rippling with impressive muscle (we’re supposed to feel like getting fit has made him a more worthy person, even though to lose the weight he’s quite clear that he had to be obsessive and unhealthy about it…not exactly a cause for celebration). So Central Intelligence and I got off on the wrong foot. But you know what? I’m glad I stuck with it.
This movie is essentially a piece of fluff. It won’t be remembered in the annals of history, or even among the annals of comedy, or possibly even the annals of The Rock’s filmography. But for an evening at the cinema, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.
Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are a comedic duo that had to happen (their 13-inch height difference is often played for laughs – a bit of a barb in my side, reminding me how ridiculous I look standing beside Sean, who is 15 inches taller than myself). Their characters are one-note but a pleasure to spend an hour and a half with. The movie is action-comedy, which means there is never quite enough comedy, and the action itself becomes part of the farce and thus has no real consequence. But if you can put that aside, Kevin Hart is as good as we’ve seen him at the movies to date, even if he’s basically relegated to being The Rock’s straight man. Say what??? Yes – you read that correctly. The Rock is bringing the giggles. Together have crackling chemistry and they bro down in some pretty unexpected ways.
Sean said he could have used “a little less story” and it’s true it gets a little bogged down with the constant action, but man this movie does move along like Sean’s Mustang through a yellow light. Like Jay on an out of control, brakeless bike down a tree-lined hill. Like The Rock’s chest muscles after he’s been tazed.
There are even some well-chosen cameos; one was such a little nugget of happiness that it garnered spontaneous applause in the theatre. Don’t look it up. Just go and be surprised. Life is hard. The winter was tough. The news is sad. You deserve a little treat, a few hearty chuckles, and maybe even an ice cream sundae afterward. Yeah, I said it. Go ahead. You deserve it.