Tag Archives: Jason Sudeikis

Booksmart

It’s the last day of school, and best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are ready to bid high school goodbye. They’ve been serious students, buttoned down and focused, and their hard work has paid off: they’re off to Yale and Columbia respectively. But their pride is tamped down a little when they learn that that many of their classmates are also headed for the Ivies – this despite the fact that they rarely seemed studious, and made lots of time for parties and fun. “I’m incredible at hand-jobs but I also got a 1560 on the SATs,” says one.

Molly is particularly devastated; sure she’s the valedictorian, but did she sacrifice fun for nothing? She doesn’t want to show up at college in the fall a party virgin. Her whole worldview is sliding down a crap chute, and her instinct is to dive in after it. Luckily, they have one last night before graduation, and Amy’s departure for a summer of volunteering in Botswana. One night to make up for 4 years of skipping parties and feeling left out of the in-crowd. They set their sights on Nick’s party – the most effortlessly popular kid in school (played by Mason Gooding, son of Cuba Gooding Jr).

The ladies do not get from point A to point B without boatloads (and sometimes they are literal boatloads) of shenanigans. This is Superbad, only because it’s girls, it’s much smarter. And it seems like this one night of trying to party teaches them more about themselves than the previous four years of high school. That sounds about right, doesn’t it?

The movie gets so much right even as we learn how much the girls have gotten wrong. Molly always assumed she was purposely excluded, but it turns out these kids are all too happy to greet her socially; her exile was self-imposed. How maddening, isn’t it, to discover that too late – and a good reminder for us all to check in with ourselves. How often do we impose our own limitations? Amy tackles her fears while Molly checks her ego, and her assumptions. The two women in the lead have amazing chemistry and it’s a lot of fun to witness the particular dynamic of their friendship. You and I know that college will test the bonds of their friendship, and inevitably change it if not crush it outright. They’re starting to have inklings that this might be so. So this last night out has some tangible pressure to it. Beanie Feldstein is a cinematic lantern, lighting up every screen she’s on, and lighting the way for others. Kaitlyn Dever is an excelling pairing for her, able to play off her energy in a more conservative and subdued way, while still holding her own.

Olivia Wilde tries out the director’s chair and seems to find it a pretty comfortable fit. She’s got an eye for letting actors do their thing; so much of the best bits feel spontaneous and are the best kind of weird. She’s also got an amazing feel for music – she introduces characters and themes with pop songs, and it really took me back. I bet most of us can come up with a soundtrack of our own high school experience. Music is such an important part of that time in our lives. I still surround myself by music constantly, but I will never again spend the day on my bedroom floor inhaling lyric booklets, or spend hours recording stuff off MTV like I did then. I know which songs I kissed to, slow-danced to, had sex to. Which ones we played on repeat as we drove recklessly and restlessly around parking lots doing donuts, which ones played at the diner as we split an order of fries, which ones we cried to when boys were mean to us, which ones accompanies us down the aisle at our own graduations and commencements. Wilde seems to have an intuitive sense of that, and I caught it.

There’s a theme in Booksmart that is hinted at but never spoken of: class. As in economic and social class. Molly points out the school’s 1% (Billie Lourd and Skyler Gisondo, whom Sean finds uproariously funny), but it’s clear that the Los Angeles high school as affluent as heck. Everyone, it seems, except for Molly. Not a single thing is ever said about it, but we see that she lives in an apartment building while everyone else has a McMansion, and her parents are absent from the film. So when Molly discovers that all her other classmates also got into good schools, she berates herself for having skipped the fun when she didn’t have to. But you and I know that she probably did: that kids like Molly have to earn their way in, but kids from rich families do not. They have legacy status, they know alumni who can pull strings. Their families donate money to schools. And, as we’ve seen in the news recently, they pay money to fake their way in on a little-used athletic scholarship or some other fraudulent means. College admissions are not the meritocracy we want to believe they are. There are very valid reasons why Molly worked so hard and others did not, even if the film never states them. So maybe Molly’s takeaway was to loosen up a bit, and experience life, which are not bad lessons. But for us, it’s a little bit more than that.

Even with these subtle layers, Booksmart never stops being fun. The cast is lively and diverse, the tropes are thankfully on the unexpected side, and the movie has a great pace. Plus it has an exception friendship at its centre. Just when you think we’ve said all there is to say about high school, Boomsmart is a charming, genuine and clever addition to the field.

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TIFF18: Driven

Jim Hoffman is a family man and cocky arse whose greed has him punching just above his pay grade. One day this gets him into trouble – the plane he’s just used to pilot his family to Disney World is stuffed full of cocaine, and Jim (Jason Sudeikis) is busted as his wife (Judy Greer) and kids look on. But the FBI handler (Corey Stoll) gives him an out: if he’s willing to go undercover and help take down bigger fish than himself, he can avoid prison and maybe even keep his family in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.

He accepts and they get relocated, which means there’s almost a full minute before Jim is plotting again. Turns out, his new neighbour is none other than John DeLorean (Lee Pace) and Jim sees nothing but opportunity. Which is too bad because you get the sense that there may have been genuine friendship here if Jim wasn’t such a selfish ahole. So just as John is designing and funding and marketing the famous gull-winged “car of the future” that would bear his name, Jim was plotting to entrap him. With friends like these, you don’t need enemies.

Lee Pace is wonderful of course. Even playing a quiet character, your eye naturally MV5BMTI5MzA3ZDEtNDk4Mi00OGQxLTgzMTYtYTczZDEyMTBmNjg1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTc4NDkxOA@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_gravitates to him as he steals every scene. DeLorean could turn it on when he needed to, and that charisma bleeds through Lee’s performance – it’s only thanks to Sudeikis’ presence that I remember this isn’t a documentary.

Nick Hamm’s Driven is about idealism and capitalism and what explosive, misinformed things can happen when the two are combined. It also makes you think about the nature of good and evil, and who the true heroes and villains of this (true) story are, if indeed there are any of either. But most of all it makes you think of what this movie would be like if it was better. Acting aside, this movie is just kind of meh. It describes itself as an ‘intense thriller’ but that’s a pile of baloney. It’s funny, if anything, but not quite a comedy. It’s not consistently anything. It suffers from a lack of identity. Possibly it only skates by because the story is interesting, but long enough ago that we’ve forgotten it, with an iconic piece of pop culture at its centre to orient us. For Lee Pace alone, Driven is worth checking out eventually, but this is one you can afford to skip at the theatre.

Kodachrome

Matt is an A&R guy at a music label but he doesn’t have many As in his R, so he’s on his last legs. It’s a particularly bad time for his dad to be dying, but Ben has never been a thoughtful father, so why start now? Ben’s nurse\assistant insists that the liver cancer is determined to kill him, and Ben’s last wish is that his son drive him to Kansas to have some rolls of film developed. So, in the last days of kodachrome, Matt (Jason Sudeikis) and Ben (Ed Harris) hit the open road in an “analog” car – just a desperate man, his estranged father, and the nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) who judges him for it. Fun times!

kodachrome

I have a real problem with movies about shitty fathers seeking redemption when the timing’s convenient, and I bet you can guess why. Good thing the acting’s real solid, or else my barf mechanisms would have been unforgivably activated. Instead they went for my tear ducts, but they did not succeed. And Bell commercials succeed, for chocolate’s sake! It is NOT that hard. But aside from the Harris-Sudeikis team, this movie was so paint by numbers I’m like 98% certain Bob Ross rolled over in his grave. And I’m only 30% certain he’s dead! [I just Googled it – he is]

Anyway, I sort of thought I’d like this film but never got there. Turns out, I’m not sentimental about obsolete photography or deadbeat dads. It’s the movie version of a guy in a fedora: trying too damn hard. Trying too hard to be a ‘festival favourite’. Instead it’s just a Netflix nonevent with good intentions and zero originality. I haven’t quite reached my word count so doobidy boobidy dunk. Kodachrome’s got no junk in its trunk. The end: a review by Jay.

 

SXSW: The Remix

Sean and I loved SXSW so much last year that we’re headed back again this year, and this time we’re staying for the whole 10 days – because at the very least, the rain in Austin is warmer than the rain in Ottawa. Last year we saw lots of great movies, but it’s hard to beat the adrenaline thrill of seeing Baby Driver‘s world premiere with Edgar Wright in attendance. Of course, this year we’ve got Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs closing the festival down. Along with Taika Waititi, that’s my top three favourite directors right there, so I’m kind of in heaven.

SXSW is not just a movie festival – in fact, it’s not even primarily a movie festival. It’s actually the world’s coolest music festival that has just grown and grown and grown, to include movies, gaming, comedy, and a whole bunch of conferences and panels and networking events that are 100% not lame at all. This year’s not-to-miss speakers include Darren Aronofsky, Melinda Gates, Barry Jenkins, Ernest Cline (author of Ready Player One!) and Bernie Sanders. There’s a documentary called The Director and The Jedi being screened that’s about Rian Johnson’s process – both he and Mark Hamill will be in attendance. The cast of This Is Us is doing a panel discussion which will almost certainly melt my face off.

But what’s really REALLY cool about SXSW is the stuff you do in between all the talks and movie premieres. Last year there was Breaking Bad\Better Call Saul event where they recreated Los Pollos Hermanos. Not only could you go inside the restaurant, you could sit and order and eat real food. Saul’s car was parked out front, and both Bob Odenkirk and Giancarlo Esposito were there. This year there will be a Roseanne pop up that includes the Lanford Lunch Pail serving their infamous loose meat sandwiches, the iconic Roseanne couch and living room, and even Dan’s garage.

AMC is celebrating their new show The Terror by inviting us to  enter the Arctic as the real-life crew of this ill-fated expedition. The fully immersive, multi-sensory experience offers guests a first-hand look as a crew member aboard the ship’s disastrous trip through the desolate polar landscape. Guests will feel the bone-chilling air, smell the fear and despair and hear the horrific sounds of men fighting for their survival. So, fun times.

HBO is building the entire town of Sweetwater to celebrate Westworld where we’ll be given either a white hat or a black hat (depending on an interview selection process) before entering the 2 acre theme park and having a drink at the Mariposa Saloon. Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden will be on hand.

Showtime is toasting Shameless with a pop-up Alibi Bar where stars Shanola Hampton and Steve Howey will be serving drinks. Which reminds me – last year we were served by Jason Sudeikis – he played a bartender in Colossal, which screened at the festival.

Viceland is bringing a party bus and baby goats. C’mon!

And believe it or not we’re going to squeeze in some movies between all this! Director Mélanie Laurent is hosting the world premiere of Galveston, starring Ben Foster and Elle Fanning as a hitman and a prostitute, and who knows which is which.

Directors Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting made a documentary about AI called More Human Than Human and guys: THEY’RE BRINGING ROBOTS WITH THEM. So if you never hear from us again, know that we loved you all. Matt, take good care of the place. Marginally cooler\less cool, depending on your perspective: director Stephen Kijak is bring Lynyrd Skynyrd members Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant, and Rickey Medlocke to the premiere of his doc, If I Leave Here Tomorrow (sorry for the earworm).

Jim Gaffigan and Nick Offerman, two of my favourite funny people, have films at the festival and I’ll be trying not to fangirl myself into embarrassment.

As for shorts, you cannot miss Briar March’s Coffin Club which is a hoot to see and just a heartful of joy. And Bola Ogun’s Are We Good Parents? is a thoughtful, funny piece about sexuality and our assumptions.

And there’s also some movies we’ve already seen! We saw Lean on Pete at the Venice Film Festival in August, and Outside In at TIFF in September.

 

As always, we intend to keep our Twitter feed @assholemovies crammed full of SXSW goodies, so please do stay tuned!

Downsizing

downsizingThe world is overpopulated and in the very near future it will become untenably crowded: fact. We don’t have enough space to comfortably house all these people, we don’t have the ecosystem to support them, or enough resources to fund the lifestyles to which we have become accustomed. The rate at which these 7 + billion people consume means we are making waste and pollution like there’s no tomorrow – and if we continue doing so, there won’t be.

Luckily for fictional Matt Damon, a Norwegian scientist will come up with a revolutionary bit of science that’s going to sound nutty at first, but hear me out. He calls it downsizing. A medical procedure will taking a willing human being and shrink him down, to about 5 inches. These small people will live in small towns – dollhouses, practically, taking up little space, generating little waste. A typical person might liquidate all his assets, pay off all his debts, and find that the $150 000 he’s left with is equivalent to about $12 million in the small world. Live like a millionaire by becoming a fraction of your former self!

Occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) are the kind of people to whom this kind of deal appeals. They work but never seem to get ahead. Sure this downsizing is billed as a way to save the earth, but it’s also a way to personally wipe the slate clean, and live the life you could only dream of as a normally-sized person.

As you can imagine, being only 5 inches tall comes with perks, but also some drawbacks. As writer-director Alexander Payne imagines it, there are social and economic impacts to all these people retiring from “normal” society. Illegal immigration and terrorism are facilitated. Downsizing can be used as punishment, against someone’s will. And even if you’re one of those people living in luxury, you’re suddenly vulnerable to insects, birds, even high winds.

Downsizing is a well-timed satire, science-fiction that manages not to feel too fictiony. Credit Payne’s wit for packing as much detail as he does, and if sci-fi feels a little outside the wheelhouse of the guy who did Sideways and Nebraska, he actually manages it with a lot of humour and humanity. Though the film is at times unabashedly absurdist, it stays away from easy sight gags. This is a thinking film that abounds with ideas – you’ll need to digest afterward. It’s an indictment of the American dream, people so disenfranchised that they’re willing to undergo a risky procedure just to find fulfillment. But miniaturization isn’t really the answer it’s cracked up to be, with people’s problems seeming shrinking down to follow them.

Matt Damon is perfectly cast as a nice guy who’s just a bit of a loser. But for Sean, it was Christoph Waltz as his playboy neighbour who really stole the show. He plays a Serbian sleazeball who figures that what the small community needs is a small black market, and he’s there to profit. I, on the other hand, was blown away by Hong Chau as his cleaner, Gong Jiang, a one-legged Vietnamese dissident who shows Paul there’s more to life than just keeping up with the Jason Sudeikises (he’s the classmate at his high school reunion who inspired Paul to go for the Big Shrink). When Oscar season starts heating up, I hope her name is mentioned.

Downsizing is a unique film with a lot of style. Despite being the opening night film here at the Venice Film Festival, it likely won’t be a best-picture contender for me, but it’s a film full of ideas that I found immensely enjoyable.

The Book of Love

Truth bomb: I came upon this movie only because my friend Justin couldn’t stand it. And he tried. I mean, he watched a full 57 minutes, sweating profusely, pausing often to debrief his pain. The cause: Maisie Williams’ uneven accent. He couldn’t hack it. He also couldn’t place it. And good friend that he is, he thought I should have the chance to crack it. Since the film is set in New Orleans, I believe Cajun is the accent she was after. And since I don’t watch Game of Thrones (and Justin does), it wasn’t quite so jarring to me. But still kind of jarring. And hers isn’t the only one.

The premise: Jason Sudeikis plays a widower who works through his grief by a) growing a beard and b) befriending a troubled teenage girl (Williams) and helping her to build a raft out of garbage which she will then use to sail to the Azores. From New Orleans. Not symbolically.

Smothered with grief or not, I think it’s mostly understood that grown-ups are not allowed to help kids with projects that will certainly kill them. Right? But let’s cut poor Jason Sudeikis some slack. We’re not just talking about a dead wife, but one of those elusive COOL wives, the ones you don’t secretly loathe. His wife (Jessica Biel) was The Shit. Through extensive flash backs we learn that she was a manic pixie dream girl, except attainable, apparently. Way better than your wife. She was never not being crazy-awesome-cool. So it stung poor Jason Sudeikis really hard, guys. Really hard. It annoyed the fuck out of me, her constant perfection.

But anyway. If you’re a better person than I (and let’s face it, you likely are), this movie is about two people finding each other when they’re each at peak hurt and need. So that’s nice. Justin Timberlake does the music, which (sorry Jessica) is probably the only reason his wife gets asked to be in anything. The title of the movie is completely nonsensical except for the fact that they do play the song of the same name at some point. My sister danced to that song at her wedding, the Peter Gabriel version anyway.

Verdict. Don’t watch if you’re sensitive about accents. Do watch if you’ve just lost your Ultra Jiggy wife and you’re looking for reckless-child-endangerment ways to get over her. For the rest of you: it’s an okay watch. It doesn’t pack the emotional punch that it probably should, but hey: finally a movie about a dead wife and an orphaned kid where the box of kleenex is unnecessary!

Tumbledown

Hannah is deep in mourning for her husband. Her grief is complicated by the many strangers who share in it; he was a folk singer of some renown, perhaps memorialized more for his mysterious and untimely death than for his single album of songs. Friends and family think Hannah should be moving on but she’s frozen, paralyzed by the stores of love she has unused. She thinks the only way to exorcise his ghost is to write his biography, but it turns out it’s hard to write about the man you’re still in love with, in awe of, and angry at, for having left you.

MV5BMzcyODA4NDA2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE1MjU2NzE@._V1_Hannah (Rebecca Hall) has avoided fans and journalists alike but relents for Andrew (a bearded and bespectacled Jason Sudeikis), a brash professor in search of a tenure-assuring topic for his thesis. This reclusive, rarely written about musician fits the bill. And Hannah thinks working with Andrew will bolster her own writing. So they hunker down in a little cabin in the woods and set to work, pretending that their purposes aren’t at odds with each other.

I enjoyed this, the rawness of grief, the fallacy of closure, the importance of legacy, the obstacles to moving on. It felt sweet and tender. But it wasn’t spectacular. The two leads lack chemistry. And for a movie about the legend of a dead folk singer, there was a notable dearth of music. And though Hannah tells us that his death was the least interesting thing about him, we have to take her word for it, never learning much about him, not even the truth behind his sudden death. So there’s a third character who’s a third wheel in this odd romance, and he truly is a ghost. Without establishing his worth, we can’t really tell if Andrew is an adversary or a milestone in moving on. Despite Tumbledown’s themes, it makes a pretty light film – light but not necessarily easy.