Tag Archives: Jacki Weaver

Life of the Party

Dumb but funny.

First off, happy mother’s day mother fuckers. I spent the earlier part of Saturday celebrating with my mom and sisters (who are mothers themselves) over drinks, and probably food, but definitely drinks, in the heart of Ottawa’s vibrant Byward Market – and we just happened to do that beside Matt Smith, who was in town for Comic Con. Jason Momoa was also in town but I guess someone else had already offered to braid his hair like he was a sweet, sweet pony.

Anyway. Did it help that I had consumed drinks literally marketed as “fishbowls”? Likely yes. Did it help that some of the jokes made in the movie were oddly similar to the jokes we’d been making at my mom’s expense all day long? You bet. Maybe I was just in the mood to laugh, but laugh I did, and so did the rest of a pretty packed theatre.

In Life of the Party, Melissa McCarthy plays Deanna, a woman who’s just been dumped by her jackass husband after a quarter decade of devotion and submission. She decides MV5BMjQ5MjM2OTY1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ2MzI0NTM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_to capitalize on her freedom by finishing the degree she gave up in favour of pregnancy over twenty years ago – the only problem is, she’s now a classmate of her daughter Maddie, because of course she’s elected to go to the exact same college. And I should say: it’s a problem for her daughter, who thinks it’s less than fun to have her booze and sex parade rained out by her uncool mom, but it’s a dream come true for Deanna who can’t wait to spend every waking moment with her daughter, aka, the only good thing to come out of her crummy marriage. Things are further complicated when Maddie’s friends all fall maddeningly in love with Deanna’s endearing “down to clown” antics.

Here’s the thing. This movie is not really a good movie, and it’s not really trying to be. It’s not treading new ground, it’s not smart, it’s not edgy. It’s a a benign, somewhat ridiculous premise that merely exists in order to set up some fairly ludicrous jokes. But it does, quite frequently, knock them down with some punch. The script is less objectionable than most in McCarthy’s recent past, and her performance has got more zing and zeal than all the bedazzled sweatshirts in the movie combined (believe me, it’s substantial).

Do I recommend this movie? It’s hard to go that far. The cornball factor is high. But the truth is, Melissa McCarthy seems uniquely qualified to deal in cheese, and really, who doesn’t love cheese?

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Irreplaceable You

As a little girl, Abbie knows what she wants, and she goes out and bites it. That’ll make sense when you watch the movie. What Abbie wants is Sam, and they’ve been together since they were 8. They’re extremely until-death-do-us-part, headed toward marriage and newly pregnant, except they find out what she’s pregnant with is a belly full of tumours, and she’s going to die, soon.

Abbie’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) last days are preoccupied with finding Sam (Michiel Huisman) a new partner. She’s grieving, she’s preparing, she wants to leave him settled, imageshe wants to know that he’ll be okay. But it’s creepy and invasive and neither Sam nor his prospective dates are super into this idea. Even Abbie’s support group is pretty skeptical. They’re also a pretty good source of humour in a movie that may have been overwhelmed by its maudlin theme. Thankfully the likes of Steve Coogan, Kate McKinnon, and Christopher Walken, all favourites of mine that I never dreamed would somehow end up sitting in the same little circle in the same film, go a long way to providing some comic relief.

The script, by Bess Wohl, is kind of terrific. There are lots of unexpected little nuggets of joy, such as the wonderful Merritt Wever’s truth bomb about the world’s only monogamous fish. Watch and learn. Frankly, I would have liked to see director Stephanie Laing push the film even further into black comedy territory. Instead its tone is confused and we’re never sure whether to laugh or weep (I had no problem doing copious amounts of both, but your experience may be different). On the whole, I liked this movie very much. I like Gugu Mbatha-Raw very much and she makes this character flawed instead of the saintly dead wife that almost any other movie would have made her out to be. Her character inhabits our worst fears while being relatable enough for us to confront them in some sort of comfort. Sure it’s tear-jerker porn, but it’s the best kind as long as you have plenty of soft, name-brand tissues to see you through.

The Polka King

Jan Lewan, Polish immigrant, is a hard-working polka enthusiast. He works 18 day time jobs just so he can afford to keep touring the Pennsylvania polka circuit. His band, however, isn’t content to work for peanuts. In a bid to fatten their paycheques, he recruits some of his elderly fans to become “investors”, and he writes promissory notes guaranteeing a 12% return on investment. His investors are quite happy: Jan always finds new investors, so he can always cover generous quarterly payments. But then the FBI finds out.

polka-kingThe FBI gets one whiff of this and feel it must be some sort of Ponzi scheme. They shut Jan down, but since he promises it was an honest mistake, and to pay back his investors, problem solved. Except, in order to pay back his investors, he ends up creating a second, bigger scheme.

The thing about our Polka King is that he’s very, very charming. Jack Black is perfect to play him: guileless, open-faced, enthusiastic. Even when he’s dirty, his heart is squeaky-clean. Jenny Slate appears as his beauty queen wife, Jacki Weaver as his scowling mother-in-law,  and Jason Schwartzman as his best friend and bandmate, Mickey Pizzazz. The film bubbles with energy thanks to its cast, and Jack Black’s eyes are never not dancing. Black’s been honing his indie acting chops these past few years, and it shows. But it never hurts that this wacky guy is exactly in his wheelhouse. It just so happens that this wacky guy is a real person, and if you were a polka fan in the 1990s, especially around Scranton, you may have caught a performance. But even if you didn’t, now all you need is a Netflix subscription. The screwball energy is infectious…although it must be said: directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky seem to love their protagonist a little too much. But heck, I love him a little too much too. The Polka King is endearing and entertaining.  He may be conning his way into our hearts, but he’s there.

Small Crimes

Joe Denton, a disgraced former cop, is under the mistaken impression that he can go home after his 6 years in prison and start redeeming himself. The truth is, even his own mother is wary of him. He’s clean for about 20 minutes before his old life starts digging its claws back into him.

Denton’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) dirty ex-partner (Gary Cole) tells him new evidence MV5BMzBjMDYxY2QtNWY1Ni00ZTc2LTgzYjEtYmZhNjlmMTIyMGVhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNTM2Mzc@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_could throw him back in prison, or worse, death row. So obviously he should cast aside his plans to live a better life, and to earn back the right to see his daughters, and murder the mob boss who could ruin everything for him. Just one problem. Well, okay, just three problems: a bitter D.A. (Michael Kinny), an unhinged war vet (Macon Blair), and the mob boss’s son (Pat Healy). It’s such a shoddily erected pyramid that the very least thing could cause it all to come crumbling down – and it must come down. Things are further complicated when Denton falls for the palliative nurse caring for the mob boss: fat chance he’s going to impress her with the mess he’s in.

Denton’s no anti-hero, he’s a piece of shit. Co-writers Evan Katz and Macon Blair reveal his soiled past so slowly that it’s hard to really understand what the stakes are, and there were just too many pieces of the puzzle for me to keep track of. The script is blacker than black, and as Denton’s dad tells him (and us), the guy’s a narcissist, which makes it morally impossible for us to root for him. Great performances by Jacki Weaver and Robert Forster as his parents make this thing watchable, but not exactly satisfying. The downward spiral is slow but relentless. There’s no hope, not even really any cynicism, just defeat. Denton’s a born loser. And maybe that’s Small Crimes’ fatal flaw: it follows the least interesting character. Follows him right down the dirty hole he digs for himself, deeper and deeper.

 

The Five Year Engagement

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) met at a New Year’s Eve make-up-your-own-superhero party one year ago. On their anniversary, he gets down on one knee and proposes. It’s romantic and sweet and perfect in a way that only movies can pull off. The article-0-12D1557A000005DC-855_306x444.jpgengagement is easy and wonderful, and their engagement party is infuriatingly better than most people’s weddings. But then things get messy. Her sister (Alison Brie) hooks up with his best friend (Chris Pratt), and then Violet gets accepted at her dream school and a move is on the horizon. The wedding gets postponed.

What was your engagement like? When Sean proposed, he got down on his knee on a beach in the Bahamas on our 6 month anniversary. It was lovely. But until this week, I’d assumed that though he did the asking, I’d done the initiating. Hadn’t we decided to marry months before that? And hadn’t I been voicing some impatience? Turns out, Sean didn’t remember it like that at all. He didn’t even remember that I knew the proposal was likely – that we’d ring-shopped together, in fact. He was still worried I’d say no! We were engaged for a year, which is longer than Ms. Impetuous (that would be me) would have liked, but I had a sister and he had a brother that already had save-the-dates in the calendar year. So we waited our turn and spent the time planning the perfect wedding and attending some close runners-up. We also almost broke up (the birth of his first niece had Sean questioning whether my no-baby stance was right for him) and then almost couldn’t marry whether we wanted to or not (did I mention I was still technically married to someone else at the time? Divorcing crazy people is hard!) but in the end we got to legalize this bitch and recently celebrated 6 years of matrimonial togetherness.

Violet and Tom had a bumpy time too. Life doesn’t always make it easy on us. Jason Segel The-Five-Year-Engagementhad to lose 35lbs to even pretend to be good enough for Emily Blunt. They have great chemistry together, and you believe in their imperfect relationship. The jokes land, but so do the more sobering moments, the ones that remind us that when relationships work, they’re transformative, and when they don’t, they’re soul crushing.

Unfortunately, The Five Year Engagement is overlong and occasionally falls back on some pretty tired cliches. But I’d still consider it worth a watch, despite its flaws, even if it had me wondering what this movie would be like with Chris Pratt in the lead rather than playing second banana. The astounding supporting cast probably contributes to this movie’s bloat, but also adds to its charm: Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Mimi Kennedy, Jacki Weaver, David Paymer, Jim Piddock, Rhys Ifans, Kumail Nanjiani, and Chris Pratt all steal scenes. Not everything in this film is brilliant, but it does manage to find some truths along the way, which I suppose is not unlike a marriage: it could be improved with some editing, but isn’t that life?

The Voices

Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds.

No, I’m not trying to conjure him. I’m just trying to remind myself why I put myself through this in the first place.

I first watched and liked Reynolds when he was on a TV show called Two Guys, A Girl, And A Pizza Place. Yes, it’s a terrible name, and surprisingly, they shortened it a couple of seasons in to just the Two Guys & A Girl (even more surprising that there were a couple of seasons). Horrid as the show was, I’ve liked Reynolds on a scale sloping markedly downward ever since, probably because he’s coasted on being a pretty but empty husk of a the-voicesman. In fact, the more I think about this, the more I realize I didn’t watch this to see if Ryan Reynolds is capable of breaking the mold. I watched it for the talking animals.

The premise: Jerry is just a normal, likable guy who happens to have pets who can talk to him. His cat, Mr. Whiskers, is particularly evil, as I completely expect all cats are, so no one is overly surprised when the cat takes things to a sinister place when an office-crush stands Jerry up for a date. The only thing more satisfying than wet cat food is gruesome serial murder!

The movie is actually kind of interesting in a way – it does a good job of showing us Jerry’s psychosis by giving us contrasting views of what he’s experiencing vs. what everyone else is experiencing. The difference is chilling the first time you notice it, and it’ll haunt you for the rest of the movie.

Jacki Weaver is a stand-out as his court-appointed psychiatrist, which you can 06-voices-review.w750.h560.2ximagine is a doozie of a job. Weaver is always a delight, a god-damned delight, and she’s an excellent stand-in for the audience as Jerry moves from cute to creepy. Is Reynolds any good? It’s clear he’s really into this role, but he kind overdoes the vacant eye thing. Unless those are his real eyes and he’s been wearing convincing puppy dog contacts this whole time! But he’s got a touch of that pre-Deadpool, charming psychopathy that just kind of works.

I’ll make no bones about it: ‘The Voices’ is an odd duck. I’d venture to call this a black comedy, but I’m also wondering what’s blacker than black? Okay, just Googled it, and here’s the scoop: there is in fact a colour blacker than black, and it’s called Vantablack. It absorbs all but 0.035% of light. It’s so black that our puny little brains can’t even understand it, so if you were wearing a Vantablack unitard, your hands and feet would appear to be floating around magically. Which is about right for when your Scottish-accented cat tells you to behead the pretty blonde and stash her in myriad tupperware. You heard it here first, folks, a new genre called the Vantablack comedy, only to be unfurled when the black just doesn’t cover it. It’s the kind of movie you should list on your internet dating profile just to suss out the wackos who respond “Me too!” It’s a great barometer for the people you don’t want to meet in a non-public place, and if you dare to date, then do not stand them up, and if stand them up you must, be sure to call your mother and tell her you love her first.

The Voices isn’t as funny as it thinks it is, and never achieves any true suspense. If you take it at face value you’ll find some cheap voyeuristic thrills, and a good dose of madness (served cold, without the insight sidedish). So yeah. This one’s memorable if you embrace the wacky and don’t mind the macabre.