Tag Archives: Bryan Cranston

Last Flag Flying

Doc shows up in his old pal Sal’s bar, unannounced. They haven’t seen each other since they served together in Vietnam. The trio isn’t complete until they pick up Mueller, now a reverend, and only then does Doc confess the true nature of their journey. Doc’s son has just died in Iraq, and they’re on a mission to bring his flag-draped body home.

The kid’s getting a hero’s burial but Doc learns that the circumstances of his son’s death were a little less than heroic – nothing against his kid, just the same tragic junk that the government would prefer to mislabel  – and it’s tearing him apart. So instead of leaving his son’s body in government hands, he resolves to hijack the coffin and he and his buds travel across the country to bring him home.

324633-last-flag-flying-la-derniere-tournee-gagnez-vos-places-2But you may recall that these old guys (Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne) were also marines, and they have their own tragic story that they tiptoe around and unravel slowly. And butting these two wars together, it’s rough; it may be 30 years later, but the senselessness feels eerily similar.

Richard Linklater puts together a really tough movie. It kind of flew under the radar when released so I didn’t have great expectations for Last Flag Flying, but in fact it does a pretty good job handling conflicting themes between grief, friendship, patriotism, service, and sacrifice. While it may suffer somewhat from the shifts in tone from levity to the more somber, it has a really incredible cast that brings warmth and real humanity to what is an otherwise fairly standard script.

Steve Carell: wow. We’ve seen him be extraordinary before, between Foxcatcher and Freeheld and Battle of the Sexes and more besides, there’ more to Carell than just a funny guy. He maneuvers between similar chords and discordant ones like this is some kind of masterclass in acting and fucking Laurence Fishburne has front row seats. And that’s no kind of knock against Carell’s costars, who really make this a tight little dramedy.  Bonding happens during acts of bravery, but also, apparently, in unheroic moments. Men make war, and war makes men. It’s dark, could stand to be darker, but that’s the stuff that works the best, and is deeply moving to watch.

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SXSW: Isle of Dogs

Read the title out loud and kind of quick, and it’s hardly distinguishable from “I love dogs” but the conflict in the film actually comes from not loving them enough. A city in Japan has a dog-hating mayor who selfishly spreads lies and rhetoric about the dog flu, and gets and\or manufactures enough support that he succeeds in banishing all dogs to Trash Island.

As most of you know (because my bursting heart can’t shut up about it), I’m lucky enough to share my life and home with four of the sweetest doggies in the world. I Isle of Dogs 1 via Fox Searchlight Headersometimes wonder if I prefer dogs to people, and I certainly do prefer my dogs to most people. I think dogs are so much better than we deserve. They are 100% heart. So it’s hard for me to imagine a bunch of dog owners so willing to sentence their dogs to a terrible, lonely, miserable life and death. Of the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of dogs sent to live and die on Trash Island, only one is lucky enough to have an owner come looking for him – a 12 year old boy named Atari. When Atari becomes stranded on the island, a scruffy pack of dogs generously decides to help him find his beloved Spots. Duke (Jeff Goldblum), King (Bob Balaban), Rex (Ed Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), and even the reluctant Chief (Bryan Cranston) band together to reunite boy and dog on a journey that you  might just say belongs in a Wes Anderson movie.

And it is a Wes Anderson movie, horray! So of course it’s got some truly absorbing attention to detail, a sweet soundtrack, and a poignancy verging on nostalgia. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is beautifully rendered in stop-motion animation. Each dog puppet is a thing of beauty, with fur (made of alpaca hair, apparently) so pettable and little noses that you’re sure are moist to the touch. Their expressive eyes bore into you, and as Bob Balaban so eloquently put it during the Q&A following the film, it could have been a silent film and still been just as affecting.

As saturated as they are aesthetically, some may argue that Wes Anderson movies are ultimately style over substance. Isle of Dogs has some pretty obvious themes about mass hysteria and maybe even fake news, but for me the takeaway is simply to love better – dare I say, more like a dog, fully, and with devotion.

Wakefield

Howard Wakefield is a cruel man possibly in the throes of a nervous breakdown – but let’s not let that excuse him. In a fit of selfish pique, he one day decides to leave his wife and kids – only not leave them in the traditional sense, but rather he decides to disappear without telling a soul. Which leaves his wife and daughters devastated, but not devastated enough, according to Howard, who in fact has not actually left but is hiding out in the garage so he can more effectively spy on his grieving family.

It’s not as creepy as it sounds – it’s way, way creepier. Wakefield is a difficult movie to watch because Harold is a nasty soul impossible to forgive. He talks to us, the audience, as if we can relate, but no Harold, we can’t. He has everything he ever wanted – ever Wakefield_Mingasson_2060.CR2cheated in order to get, but when he finds that it’s not enough, he doesn’t just abandon it, he makes it into a game, one that his family can never win because they don’t even know they’re playing, but even if they did, the deck isn’t just stacked against them, the rules are impossible. It’s not really his family that’s the problem – it’s Harold’s own dark, empty soul. And it’s terrifying to get glimpses of it as he spends months becoming a feral creature up in the attic of his detached garage. He risks starvation and exposure just to carry out this cruel little experiment. Is he missed enough? Grieved enough? His absence respected enough? No one can ever measure up – but Harold himself conveniently escapes his judgement.

Harold is brilliantly played by Bryan Cranston, which makes him riveting, but all the more loathsome to watch. But really it’s his wife who’s the most compelling – we see and experience her only through Harold’s narrow focus. Jennifer Garner has the difficult task of animating her, a woman who can never truly be real to us, even if we do project our own anguish and frustration on to her. I can’t say I enjoyed this film; it’s a bit dull and uneventful, but more than that, it’s just detestable. Harold is an anti-hero incapable of redemption. But there are two fine performances and ideas about marriage and identity that will challenge the least of us. Who are we really – are we fully knowable to our partners? And do we all have secret garage moments?

Why Him?

Ned is a sweet, hard-working family man who loves to bowl. His wife, Barb, is a supportive and involved mother of two, an art professor and photographer on the side. They have a 15 year old son who makes loving slide shows and a daughter at college who is dearly missed. Imagine their surprise when a Face Time with her reveals the unadorned ass of her secret lover.

Rendywhy-him-01-trlr-9204Cut to: Ned (Bryan Cranston) and Barb (Megan Mullally) fly to California to meet their daughter’s new boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). He’s a “free spirit” which is code for guy who makes worst possible impression on parents so they immediately hate him, which is unfortunate because he’s terribly in love with their daughter. It’s always awkward when someone tries too hard to be liked. It’s a thousand times more awkward when that someone is a tech millionaire who has unlimited means to make all his awkward dreams come true.

I was pretty sure I could write this review without even seeing the movie, and I was half right: this movie has very little to add to the overprotective dad vs odd duck fiance trope. We get it, dads: you hate your daughter’s boyfriends. But I have to admit that a charming cast goes a long way with this movie. Franco continues to endear himself to me. Cranston makes the implausible feel plausible. And Mullally has space to shine. The truth is, this dumb movie did make me laugh.

If you’ve seen Why Him? then you know that Bryan Cranston plays a not-very-hip dad who doesn’t relate to new technology in any meaningful way, which has already alienated him from his kids, but opens a wide chasm between himself and his daughter’s Silicon Valley boyfriend. Laird’s mansion is “paperless” and Ned learns the hard way that WhyHim_.0this includes toilet paper. Laird has the latest in toilet innovation but since its instruction manual has not yet been translated from Japanese, his weird assistant (Keegan-Michael Key) gets to show Ned live and in person how to properly “wipe” his ass. In order to celebrate the release of this movie, Why Him? brought a suitably fancy porta potty to SXSW. This, ladies and gentlemen, is officially the weirdest way I’ve ever seen a movie promoted and it worked. How could I not find out what’s up with that? I did, however, resist the temptation to stick my arm through a hole that would apparently provide me with a James-Franco-inspired temporary tattoo.

SXSW: The Disaster Artist

Before we talk about this movie, we have to talk about another: The Room. Not Room, the Brie Larson kidnap drama, but The Room, the worst movie ever made. Even better: the BEST bad tumblr_megxu99K4x1ry10fwo1_500movie ever made, the Citizen Kane of bad movies, a movie so bad it’s achieved cult status. Tommy Wiseau was obsessed with movies and had enough cash to get one made, so he did. And he did it with such earnestness and such a complete lack of talent that people love to watch it. Ottawa’s own Mayfair Theatre, one of Canada’s oldest surviving independent movie houses, an official heritage building in our fair city, champion of 35mm film, screener of indies and classics, has been showing it for 92 consecutive months now. Each midnight screening is a riot; this cult film draws fans that know the drill. Matt wrote a great review of it a while back, almost nothing about the movie itself, which defies reviewing, but about the experience of seeing, the rituals that go along with it, the things you yell at the screen, hell, the things you chuck at the screen, it’s all a wild ball of fun.

Greg Sestero, co-star in The Room and Tommy Wiseau BFF wrote a book about making this weird movie with its even weirder director. It’s called The Disaster Artist. Ever a sucker for a great Hollywood story, James Franco read this book one day and immediately got a boner. He brought the script to Seth Rogen on the set of their ill-fated movie The Interview, and the rest is history. Well, future history. I saw the one and only screening of The Disaster Artist at SXSW where it was still billed as a “work in progress.” Tommy Wiseau was in the house, and also seeing it for the first time. Big gulp.

Two things struck me about The Disaster Artist: 1. This film was made with love. It could easily mock The Room, as many have, but it doesn’t. This is a loving ode to The Room, and to the friendship that gave birth to it. 2. This film is fucking hilarious.

Even having never seen The Room, The Disaster Artist is still accessible and relevant. Tommy Wiseau is a goddamned character and James Franco is just the man to play him (although Wiseau pushed for Johnny Depp). Franco got into the part so deeply that he directed while in character too. He was in deep enough to fool Seth Rogen’s grandmother when she visited the set, and in more than deep enough to constantly annoy his little brother “Davey” who co-stars MV5BMjA4ZDZkNjEtNTFkZi00YjhjLWFjZTctNDZlOWVmYzZmZjhhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTM2Mzg4MA@@._V1_with him.  James and Seth debuted Sausage Party at SXSW last year, and for me it was a disappointment. The Disaster Artist, however, gave me continuous giggles. They’ve amassed an impressive cast, some with just bitty walk-on parts, which only proves the love Hollywood has for underdog Tommy Wiseau. Or perhaps for James “I’ll try anything once” Franco. Or maybe James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. In any case, I laughed until I cried, and then I slammed some Diet Pepsi just so I could cry-laugh some more. And I did! This movie will make you rabid for The Room but it stands on its own, a complete movie that probably benefits from NOT being written by Franco or Rogen. It’s an affectionate behind the scenes look at Hollywood gone wrong, but it’s also a kind of heart-warming tale about outsiders who can’t break in so they plow their own field, and even if it’s bad, at least they have potatoes. Know what I’m saying? Oh, hi Mark.

 

 

 

p.s. Check out the comments section for a delightful Q&A with James, Dave & Seth.

Kung Fu Panda 3

In X-Men: Apocalypse, Cyclops convinces Nightcrawler to have a regular teenaged afternoon-about-town. They stop in at the mall, cruise downtown, and go to the movies, where they happen to catch Return of the Jedi and note that the third one in any trilogy is “always the worst.” Ahem.

Kung Fu Panda is Kung Fu-cked up. Well, maybe it’s not terrible, but it IS boring and useless. The animation is kind of beautiful at times, and it takes stabs at being heart-warming, but by the third installment, this franchise just feels washed out, and I was never its biggest fan to begin with. The plot is a barely-there mishmash of eastern and western tropes and while it says the right things, it fails to engage.

You may know from previous films that Po the panda (voiced by Jack Black) is kung-fu-panda-3raised by a restaurateur goose in a village with no other pandas. There is, however, a Kung-Fu master (Dustin Hoffman) and his protégés (Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Lui) which soon includes Po, as improbable as it seems. In this movie, Po’s biological father (Bryan Cranston) shows up in the noodle shop looking for his long-lost son and is thrilled to find that his son is now a dragon warrior because that’s just what his village needs to be saved from the evil villain Kai (J.K. Simmons). But Kai is a super villain and only a master of chi can possibly stand a chance. And rather than mastering chi, Po’s fucked off to magical Panda village where’s fluffing around with the other pandas, stuffing his gourd and rolling about like a big dumb animal.

Don’t worry, it’s a kids’ movie, so everything goes exactly as it should: learn lessons, make fart jokes, yadda yadda yadda. Nobody gets beheaded. Nobody’s femur snaps like a twig. Nobody’s silky soft fur gets worn by a callous victor like a cape. It’s all very, well, PG. Nothing unexpected happens. The plot feels very derivative of the first film’s, and come to think of it, the second’s. No kung-fu-panda-3_640x480_71452230774matter how much kung-fu we learn there’s always another threat to vanquish – both the physical ones, and the ones inside our head (cue soft pan-pipe music). God I hate cartoons with morals.

This one just felt strained to me. Strained like trying to take a giant panda poop on a steady diet of white rice and cheese. Strained like the look on your adopted father’s face when your “real” dad shows up for #3. Strained like that feeling in your groin when you execute a kung fu thrust kick without first stretching your hammies. Strained like a fourth simile would be. This one’s just not working for me.

Get A Job

This movie was shot in 2012 and it took 4 years for the heat of everyone blushing in embarrassment to die down enough to release it. Maybe they should have given it 4 more.

In it, Anna Kendrick and Miles Teller play self-obsessed millennials who graduate and are astounded to not immediately be handed their dream jobs with rockstar perks. This premise is so flimsy they try to pad it out with a whole bunch of friends also struggling in the real world, thus ensuring that there is never a whole story being told anywhere, but lots of odds and ends you can’t possibly bring yourself to care about. Bryan Cranston is the best thing in this movie, playing the guy who has aged out of his job and is facing unemployment in a job market crawling with shallow selfie-resumes.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to watch this movie. If you do, please contact your local poison control centre immediately, and flush the area with water.

The less said about this ass-munching movie the better, so instead let’s discuss the myriad better ways this money could have been spent. Assuming a very modest budget of 8 million dollars, you could have bought:

11-diamond_bathtub_for_your_po-610x458A Swarovski crystal-studded bathtub for your dog: $39 000

A bejeweled, 18-karat gold Monopoly set: $2 000 000

Exclusive gold shoelaces by Mr. Kennedy: $19 000

A bottle of 100 year old champagne recovered from a shipwreck which may or may not still be potable let alone drinkable: $275 000 Add a champagne bucket by Aston Martin (it’s insulated with carbon fibre) for $38 000

A plain white t-shirt “designed” by Kanye West: $12010-o-GUINEA-PIG-ARMOR-facebook-610x475

A custom-made suit of armour: $20 000; add one for your pet guinea pig: $24 300

A lock of Elvis’s hair, as far as you know: $115 000

A stamp of Nicholas Cage’s face: $19

A ziploc bag of air from Kobe Bryant’s last basketball game: $16 000

A cornflake shaped like Illinois: $1350

il_570xN.603647511_jio03 x-rays of Marilyn Monroe’s chest: $45 000

A banana slicer: $4.75

A ghost in a jar: $50 992

A 1/8 model of a Lamborghini Aventador. It doesn’t move but it does take up lots of space on your desk: $4 700 000 (just to be clear: an actual Lamborgnini will set you back about 400K)

A gold, diamond-encrusted Nintendo Wii system. Be sure to save your crappy old plastic wii-motes because this baby doesn’t come with any! The kicker? It’s already obsolete!: $500 000

William Shatner’s kidney stone: $25 000

Plastic surgery to look “like” Justin Bieber: $100 000

You could buy all of these items for the cost of 1 Get a Job, they’d all be a better use of your time and money, and you’d still have enough cash left over to make The Blair Witch Project. Think on that.