Tag Archives: Bobby Cannavale

TIFF18: Homecoming

Has TV been more exciting than movies lately? People have been saying so for some time and, given that we aren’t Assholes Watching Television, the idea sometimes makes me a little defensive. I have to admit though that the first four episodes of Homecoming were the most challenging and exhilarating two hours that I spent at TIFF this year.

The current legitimacy of episodic television is hard to deny when Julia Roberts, one of the biggest movie stars in my lifetime, starts turning to tv for interesting roles. In the new series directed by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, Roberts plays a counselor in a facility whose mandate is ostensibly to help American soldiers returning from their deployments to adapt to life back home. It’s clear from her first phone call with her superior (Bobby Cannavale, as awesome as ever) that there’s something more nefarious or at least more secretive going on at this facility. What is less clear is exactly what that is. Things start to reall get interesting when Julia’s favourite patient (If Beale Street Could Talk’s Stephan James, who will almost definitely be a huge star this time next year) starts to suspect something is amiss.

Homecoming may not be quite the best thing I saw at TIFF this year. That honour probably goes to Widows. But it’s definitely the most original. Just like in Mr. Robot, Esmail’s strange choice of camera angles and Maggie Phillips’ score which often doesn’t seem to match the tone of what we think we’re seeing all contribute to the feeling that there’s so much more going on here then we realize. I can’t wait for the show to finally air in November so I can watch the rest and find out what that is.

Somehow, Homecoming is an adaptation of creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg’s podcast which I’ve never listened to nor do I understand what it could possibly be. Together with Esmail, they have assembled an impressive cast that also includes Sissy Spacek, Alex Karpovsky, Shea Whigham, and Dermot Mulroney. Together they have made one of many compelling examples of how television can be just as creative and satisfying as an Oscar season feature film.

Advertisements

SXSW: Boundaries

Laura is making her therapist proud by making and enforcing some strong, much-needed boundaries with her father. She’s also lying to her therapist about plenty of things, including the actual number of rescue animals currently residing in her home, and in her purse on the floor of the therapist’s office. But Laura’s father Jack is very good at testing boundaries, and right now, he’s a man in need. His retirement residence is kicking him out, and if Laura is unprepared to house him in the home she shares with her teenage son Henry, the least she can do is drive him cross-country to her sister’s home in L.A.. Right?

MV5BMTY5NzMzNTcwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg0MTc3NDM@._V1_Laura (Vera Farmiga) loves her son, and her pets, and against all odds, her father. Her son is a sensitive, gym-hating, naked-picture-drawing type (Lewis MacDougall) who’s just been permanently expelled from school. Her rescued pets are a rag-tag, flea-ridden circus of mange, as pathetic as they are cute. Her dad (Christopher Plummer) is a drug dealer and a rapscallion through and through, and terminally charming.

The cast works together as a dysfunctional unit. Director Shana Feste puts together a trio that doesn’t seem like a natural fit but somehow it works – perhaps because they’re all sort of loners in their way, much like the abandoned animals they pick up along the way, and they find a reluctant companionship that turns into some genuine, heartening chemistry onscreen. Toss in a dash of Bobby Cannavale, a splash of Christopher Lloyd (and Christopher Lloyd’s balls, as Farmiga was quick to recall, and not without a blush), and sprinkling of Peter Fonda…my goodness, it’s a bowl of mixed nuts,  more salty than sweet, but it went down mighty well.

I saw this at SXSW when I’d also just seen You Can Choose Your Family, and made me think: good lord, these directors have daddy issues. But I guess all art comes out of some frustration, some need to prove something to someone. But since father issues are nearly universal, I suppose these films feel at once familiar but also just removed enough that we can laugh at them, enjoy a moment of catharsis because someone else has it just a little tougher than you. Collectively the audience will laugh, and will emit a sigh of relief for having survived this awkward family trip.

 

 

 

Thanks for keeping up with our frantic SXSW coverage. We’re posting so frequently you may have missed Sean’s great review of The Director and The Jedi, or my review of the truly astonishing Blindspotting, or Matt’s review of the documentary From All Corners.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand is a big, beefy bull who accidentally destroys a village and gets branded a beast. The biggest, most monstrous bulls get chosen by the matador for bullfights, MV5BZWQ5ODZiMWMtYjM1Yy00ZDlhLTkwYzctNTQxNzE5MDRhNmIxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjA0MTc4OQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,738_AL_but Ferdinand has never aspired to such fame. He’s a gentle soul, really, a pacifist. The other bulls are quite judgmental about his lack of fight but Ferdinand stays true to himself.

And that’s all I really have to say about it. This is not Pixar; it’s not intended for adults, or particularly bright children. Ferdinand is forgettable. It doesn’t even try to surprise you. But John Cena as Ferdinand is pretty okay and Kate McKinnon as a “calming goat” is sometimes nearly funny, so I guess there’s that. It just feels lackluster, and lazy.

I, Tonya

Margot Robbie is convinced this film will change your mind about Tonya Harding. Is she a villain or a victim? Abused or abuser? The truth is, your opinion doesn’t really matter and truth doesn’t really exist. What does exist: a wholly funny film that never fails to entertain.

{In the unlikely event you’re in need of a refresher: Tonya Harding was an American figure skater in the 1990s, and competed twice in the Olympics. She was known for two things: for being the first American female to land a triple axel in competition, and for bashing in her Nancy Kerrigan’s knee.}

Margot Robbie is well-cast as Tonya Harding. She’s still just a little too pretty to play elm120117intelmovies-007-1512400299white trash, even with the poofy 90s bangs, but she comes down low and it’s pretty glorious. Sebastian Stan plays Harding’s good for nothing husband, Jeff Gillooly, and he disappears into the role of dumb fuck. Jeff’s dumb ass best friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) pretends to be an international spy even though he’s a grownup who lives with his parents. Not exactly criminal masterminds, but this is the trio that brought us the most delicious scandal of 1994 (until OJ Simpson that is – if you thought Lillehammer was competitive, try being a celebrity fuck up). But for my money, I’d have to say that the real cast stand-out was Ms. Allison Janney, who plays Tonya’s mother LaVonam who, by sheer comparison, makes bathtub scum look appealing. She’s the dirtiest of dirts with not a kind word or intention in the world. If being a crummy mother was an Olympic sport, she wouldn’t have to resort to breaking any kneecaps.

The first thing that may surprise you about this film is that it’s funny. Actually funny, though pretty dark – the kind of laughs you feel slightly guilty about succumbing to, but you’ll need to just embrace the absurdity. It is farcical, in the way only a true story can be when it’s populated with idiots.

The second thing that surprised me anyway, was that it actually does dredge up sympathy for our poor Tonya. Her guilt (or innocence) is not really the point. This is Tonya’s story, hers alone from beginning to end. No one’s trying to excuse what happened, but putting “the incident” within context is actually very interesting.

I, Tonya is funny, dramatic, pumped full of energy, and even the sports angle is well-done. Certainly Margot Robbie can be commended for all the hard work she put in getting skate-ready, but she gets a lot of help from choreographers, stunt people, and CGI – effects that are pulled off almost seemlessly. But it’s the camera work that makes the figure skating extra exciting – you really get a sense of the speed and athleticism, two hallmarks of Harding’s style in particular. No matter your experience of “the incident” at the time, I, Tonya turns tragedy into triumph.

The Fundamentals of Caring

I am having trouble sorting out my feelings for this movie: on the one hand, it’s plump with clichés like an overcooked wiener in a bun of unsubtlety. But that’s no ordinary mustard on this hot dog; it’s the fancy hand-pumped kind I got “on tap” from Maille in Paris, a beautiful mustard with Chablis and black truffles.

Okay, I took that metaphor too far. My point is (and I do have one): this movie the-fundamentals-of-caringhits a LOT of “road trip” clichés coupled with a lot of “my disabled buddy” clichés. And it has Selena Gomez. But it’s still offbeat and oddly charming and yes, this wiener won me over.

Ben (Paul Rudd) is a downtrodden man completing his training in caregiving, where the motto is, “Care, but not too much.” And that’s his plan. This is just a job. But he winds up working for an 18 year old young man named Trevor (Craig Roberts) with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. A progressive loss of muscle function means that Trevor’s in a wheel chair with limited use of his arms. The disease has NOT touched Trevor’s razor wit, his mean sense of humour, or his nasty predilection for pranks. This isn’t going to be an easy babysitting job after all – especially when the two hit the open road with a specially-equipped van full of drugs and life-sustaining equipment. Oh the fun they’ll have literally risking Trevor’s life to see some lousy American road side attractions.

Paul Rudd is the fancy mustard. I adore him. 60% of the time, I love him every time. I mean, let’s be serious for a moment. Is therefundamentalsofcaring-roberts-rudd-bovine-770x470 a single person on the planet who doesn’t love him? He might just be the most universally beloved actor that America has ever or will ever produce. He’s adorable. He’s still playing adorable and he’s middle aged!

Writer-director Rob Burnett manages to find a few new nuggets among the usual disability tropes. He’s not afraid of dark humour, but this movie still manages to be fairly lightweight. And I have to give him mad props for finding a way to use a Leonard Cohen song. I could hardly believe my little ears; they turned pink in utter delight.

This is the perfect little movie to accompany a glass of sangria at the end of a summer night – easy watching for easy sipping. Hot dogs are never easy eating for me but I rate this movie 4 gourmet all-beef wieners out of 5. It’s on Netflix right now.

Adult Beginners

Some of my favourite people come together in this movie, so I couldn’t resist, but neither could I legitimately build up my expectations since it was just an unvouched-for indie among many on Netflix.

adultAnd it doesn’t have much of a plot that I can summarize for you; it’s an unambitious slice of life. It’s about a guy (Nick Kroll) who shows up at his sister’s  door in suburbia, looking for a place to live. He’s had some major setbacks and he’s feeling way too old to start his whole life over again. She’s (Rose Byrne) not in a much better place, kind of not sure about her job, her marriage, or even where to be or who to be. They’re listless. But the interesting thing about the movie, to me, is that they’re not painted as losers. They’ve just had some bad luck and some hard times, and that’s life.

Not the laugh-out-loud comedy you’d expect, I was caught off guard by how AdultBeginners_2014_BluRay_1080p_DTS_x264ETRG_mkv_snapshot_01_25_59_2015_08_04_17_47_46thoughtful and mature this movie is – maybe one of the more realistic movies about adult family relationships I’ve seen in a long while. Byrne and her on-screen husband, Bobby Cannavale, are a real-life couple, and they play well together. Throwing funny man Nick Kroll into the mix as a more or less straight-man is a bold and surprisingly effective choice. Everyone is some degree of flawed in this movie but we don’t make monsters out of any of them. They’re very relatable, and there’s a adultbeginnersquiet generosity in the characterization, a forgiveness I’m not used to see in movies that was really refreshing and kind of a relief.

While it doesn’t exactly gift-wrap an opaquely happy ending, it does suggest that second chances are possible, and maybe that’s as happy an ending as I really need.

Ant-Man

 

Ant-Man reminded me a lot of the first Iron Man movie (which started this recent superhero craziness) so it makes a nice bookend as we close out Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a small, focused and mostly self-contained movie about some good-hearted criminals who can’t be that good at their jobs since they all have served significant time in prison. But for whatever reason, Michael Douglas takes a liking to Paul Rudd. And really, it makes sense because Paul Rudd seems like a guy who you could trust with your superhero suit. So after a fairly long lead in, Paul Rudd learns to be Ant-Man and saves the world

The thing about superhero movies is: the plot doesn’t matter anymore. Every origin story is going to be the same, more or less. What separates the good from the bad is whether the movie (a) feels new or novel in some way; (b) makes you care about the characters and/or the outcome, even after having seen like 30 movies in this genre; and (c) makes you want to see the character join the Avengers/Guardians/Justice League for their next movie. On those criteria, Ant-Man is a smashing success.

I felt like this was something new and a movie that could have stood on its own. I cared about Ant-Man and wanted him to succeed. And after seeing Ant-Man, I hope that he joins the Avengers, if nothing else so we can see him interact with all of them.

And if/when Ant-Man jumps to the team, i hope Michael Pena tags along. He’s the funniest part about this movie and a huge reason why I enjoyed it as much as I did. Which was a lot, so i give Ant-Man nine subatomic superheroes out of ten!

Adding to the fun were the rumble seats, which are called D-Box at Cineplex for some reason. They were hard to choose over VIP at Lansdowne (food and alcohol delivery to my seat is the best thing i can think of) but now they’re in Gloucester too so that makes them easier to recommend. I would pay the extra money again for an action movie.  Just be sure to turn the chair to its max setting, because obviously you want the most shake available! It’s not quite up to par with all the immersive movie rides we recently went on at Universal but it’s still fun and worth a try for the punching effect by itself. I look forward to trying them for Southpaw.