Tag Archives: jemaine clement

TIFF: Brad’s Status

Save yourself $12 and some heart burn. Brad’s Status is midlife crisis. Anyone who calls a Millennial whiny, entitled, or self-indulgent has cleary never met Brad (Ben Stiller) or his ilk. He seemingly has everything a Millennial may never get: a great house, a job he’s passionate about, a family who adores him. And yet.

And yet his son’s success has led him to do some deep introspection. His son Troy  (Austin Abrams) is applying to college and his good grades and musicianship mean he’s a shoo-in wherever he might apply – including Harvard, which is the school they’re going to check maxresdefaultout over the weekend. Brad is surprised his son is so high-achieving, proud of course – but maybe also a little jealous. And he’s reminded of his own youth, when life was still before him and anything was possible. His best mates in college have all gone on to stunning success – Craig (Michael Sheen) is a best-selling politico, Billy (Jemaine Clement) is enjoying early retirement in paradise after selling his company, Jason (Luke Wilson) is a hedge fund guy with his own private jet, and Nick (Mike White) is a Hollywood director with a palatial home. Brad gets unforgivably mopey about the fact that his sweet wife (Jenna Fisher) didn’t encourage him to sell out, and his job helping people connect with charitable giving is peanuts compared to just being a rich guy with money to give.

We get treated to so much of Brad’s whiny inner monologue that you’ll want to punch him, repeatedly. Various Millennials have to literally hold his hand and explain to him that he’s being gross: that everything he’s complaining about is white privilege, male privilege garbage. And he still doesn’t get it.

Brad’s life only seems pale when he compares it to the 1%. He burns with first world problems. He seems like a not fantastic guy who doesn’t get an ounce of my sympathy. Of course, Ben Stiller is well-suited to this kind of neurotic self-pity. With anxiety written all over his face, we know 5 minutes into this movie that we hate him and regret having to spend the next 100 minutes listening to him be ungrateful for his charmed life. Thank goodness for his son who sees things a little more clearly. Mike White may have some interesting things to say on the subject, and I pray that he’s just as contemptuous of Brad as we are, but for me, he was just too unlikeable a character to really inspire much empathy from me, and I mostly just wanted to turn him off.

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The BFG

I liked but didn’t love The BFG. There’s lots to like: Mark Rylance’s tongue trips over Roald Dahl’s language just so; the animation manages to be both technically and precisely perfect while also being quite fanciful; the BFG’s universe is literally the stuff of dreams.

But I didn’t really connect with it. And like most things in life, I blame my mother. I grew up without Roald Dahl. Tiny little Jay was a voracious bfg-movie-2016-mark-rylancereader. I spent my nights under my unicorn comforter with a flashlight and a stack of books. As a kid I devoured Robert Munsch, Judy Blume, and E.B. White. Roald Dahl? Never heard of him.

Sean had, of course. His childhood was idyllic. I’m sure his mother never missed an opportunity to give him chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven, or to blow gently on his skinned knee before applying the Band-Aid, or to predict what children’s book would be turned into a movie 35 years hence when he was an Asshole despite her best efforts.

But I don’t think Sean liked it any better than I did. Which, again, is not to say we didn’t like it. Just that…well, it failed to really engage. Director Steven Spielberg is paying so much attention to getting every little detail right, to fleshing out every nook and cranny of this ethereal place, to bfg-movie-2016-mark-rylance-ruby-barnhilldusting out the cobwebby corners of our imaginations, that he forgets to pick up the pace. We’re not all lumbering giants. Some of us have the attention spans of fleas. Not me, mind you. But certainly my nephew, who at 2 and a half with his angelic ringlets and heart-melting smile, needs a lot of action to keep him sitting still. And The BFG has very little. In fact, the movie’s greatest adventure culminates in a pot of tea with the Queen of England (a very amusing Penelope Wilton). Even I thought it a little absurd that in the face of child-eating giants, tea-time was still observed, but a kid will be downright baffled. My nephew’s only knowledge of the Queen is probably from that Minion movie wherein they endeavour to steal her crown. He doesn’t give two farts about British humour. And wasn’t this supposed to be a kids’ movie, after all?

To complain about Spielberg feels a little cheap, even to me. I do hope older children will give this one a chance despite its leisurely unfolding because it really is a darling world with a great heart-felt story. And because I’m usually the first to complain when a kids’ movie is all primary colours and non-stop flatulence (It’s worth noting, however, that this movie does contain a fart joke so big and bad you might even call it treasonous). But let’s face it: I was a smidge bored. Sean should have brought a colouring book and a baggie of Cheerios to keep me entertained. I was enchanted by the intricate animation, by the sight of the Big Friendly Giant’s downy neck hairs swaying in the breeze from a young girl’s breath while perched on his big friendly shoulder. But it wasn’t enough. I needed more. And if that’s what you’re hearing for an impatient little Asshole, what chance does a 7 year old really have?

 

 

Let us know what you thought of the movie. What age range would you suggest? Did you read the book as a child, or read it your own?

Rio 2

If you’re going to see one Jesse Eisenberg movie this week, please, please let it be this one.

Rio_2_stars_7Er.Okay, I don’t really mean that. In fact,if my house was on fire and I had to say which I was more tired of, super hero movies or Jesse Eisenberg being alive, I’d sweat. And not just from the flames, which would be licking at my feet.

How’s a body supposed to make an informed choice between Rio 2 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Well, based on titles alone, I’m voting Rio 2. If you’re going to be typing this thing on the reg, you’ll appreciate how few characters you can get away with, even considering it’s a sequel. Batman v Superman is a franchise first and it’s already got a colon! If you’re still unconvinced, I present to you Jay’s Guide for Choosing Between Inevitably Disappointing Jesse Eisenberg Movies.

  1. When you watched Les Miserables, did you feel grateful to get out alive,lesmiserables yet secretly nurse the urge to hear Anne Hathaway sing again? If so, Rio 2’s your best bet. Sure you’ll have to sit through some trite shit about family and the environment, but you already endured Russell Crowe singing about sewers, so you’re a survivor. You got this.

2. Do you love Rio de Janiero and look forward to seeing it lovingly rendered in 3D animation? If so, keep walking. Despite the misleading title, Rio 2 does not take place in Rio. Console yourself with the lush tropical look and feel of the Amazon, or with Metropolis getting stomped to smithereens yet again (gosh those people are resilient!).

3. Do you love heroic themes of alienation, altruism, and justice? If your heart sighs yes, then check out Rio 2! Did you know that one little city-bird, out of his element in the jungle, can redifine machismo while taking on the logging company and Amazonian deforestation and heraldiBatman-v-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice-Jesse-Eisenberg-as-Lex-Luthorng cross-species cooperation? Neither Batmam nor Superman have anything on a little macaw named Blu.

4. Conversely, are you maybe in it just for the evilest of villains? I hear Lex Luthor’s got yet another doomsday device (yawn), but Rio 2 is so terrorized by its villain it can afford to practically gloss over the obvious villainy of “progress”, “loss of habitat”, and “corporate greed” to create the greatest antagonist of all time: a Shakespeare-quoting cockatoo with a heart full of vengeance.

5. Or maybe you just like a good old-fashioned ensemble cast of strong performers who will unite against a common enemy. Again: slight edge to Rio 2. I’m going to be honest. There’s no avoiding Jesse Eisenberg in either of these movies, and for that, I truly apologize. But Rio 2 has an excellent voice cast consisting of Leslie Mann, Andy Garcia, Tracey Morgan, Bruno Mars, Jamie Foxx, and especially Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenowith. Like most sequels meant for children, this one’s bigger and bolder, almost an onslaught of primary colours and laughing at one’s own jokes, of taking the first movie rio2jemaineclementand not doing much with it, recycling what worked, and putting up some extra musical numbers that only its target audience, kids aged 5-7 bereft of attention spans, can stomach. But Jemaine Clement is the best (and only) reason for an adult to sit through this. Can you really say the same about Ben Affleck? I said good day, sir!

6. The only reason I can think of to watch Batman v Superman, and I assume this happening under some kind of duress, is because of Wonder Woman. It’s about damn time, amirite? I mean, super hero movies make a bunch of macho Brazilian birds look progressive for fuck’s sake. I give zero fucks about any super hero anywhere, but I confess I’ve taken a bit of a shine to Ms. Wonder wonderwomanlegoever since Sean started playing a game called Lego Dimensions. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a video game where you buy characters in a store to literally build out of Legos. There’s Lego Back to the Future (with a Lego DeLorean), and Lego Jurassic World (with a Lego velociraptor), and Lego Ghostbusters (with a Lego Bill Murray!). I felt the game was a little testosterone-heavy so I brought home Lego Wonder Woman (and her invisible jet!) so I could do things like mind-control people with my goldenwonderwoman lasso, and hit things with my fancy tiara, and make smarmy pronouncements, and recklessly fly about in my invisible jet, making lots of Lego things explode into coins. Kids may like the Lego warrior Princess of the Amazons, but I for one do not want to have to explain to a 6 year old why a lady is walking around in a metal bathing suit. Rio 2 for the win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Netflix Double Feature: Slow Learners and People Places Things

If you’re recovering from surgery like Jay is, it’s nice to have Netflix available to pass some of the time.  The trick is finding something worthwhile among all those options.

Last night we tried twice to find a hidden gem, with mixed results.

The first movie we tried was Slow Learners. Starring Adam Pally and Sarah Burns, Slow Learners tells the story of two geeky teachers who make a pact to change themselves over their summer vacation in order to improve their dating lives.  Naturally, it gets super awkward, super fast, to the point where Jay couldn’t SlowLearners-Shotbear to watch Burns attempt a southern accent to make herself more interesting.  We eventually fast-forwarded through that part, after initially stopping the movie.

The fact we came back to this movie after stopping it is something positive, but that’s really the best that I can say about Slow Learners.   It’s not terrible and there are a few good bits, but overall it’s really shallow, really predictable, and only moderately watchable.   I give Slow Learners a score of four random literary quotes out of ten.

While we were on a break from Slow Learners, we took a look for something less awkward and settled on People Places Things, starring Jemaine Clement (Netflix recommended the movie because we watched Slow Learners, oddly enough).  Jemaine does his usual quirky Kiwi thing in People Places Things, and I for onmaxresdefaulte find him hilarious almost no matter what else is going on.

In People Places Things, Jemaine plays a semi-starving artist who understandably has a hard time coping after discovering his spouse is cheating on him (which happens in the middle of their twin girls’ fifth birthday party, no less).  We catch up with him one year after that party as he tries to move on or make up or…really, he’s not at all sure what he wants and I liked that.  People Places Things is clearly more about Jemaine’s journey than his ultimate destination.

I’m happy to report that the journey is entertaining, fairly cliche-free, and full of interesting characters.  I really liked watching the discovery process play out for Jemaine’s character, and I enjoyed this movie all the way through.  I give People Places Things a score of seven trips to Astoria out of ten.

Eagle vs. Shark

Apparently this was one of my tests for marriage material and I didn’t even know it.  Jay introduced me to it without any real warning or lead-in, and I remember enjoying it but none of the specifics.  We’ve been on a bit of a Taika Waititi binge with What We Do in the Shadows and Boy, so this seemed like a very good time to rewatch Eagle vs. Shark.

This movie confirms that Jemaine Clement, who I knew from Flight of the Conchords before seeing this the first time, is either a terrific actor or a terrible human being.  Jarrod, his character, is just an awful person who brings nothing to the table at all.  So while this is supposed to be a love story, the love is entirely one-sided.  Lily, the loving half of this on-again, off-again couple, is probably as much of an outcast as Jarrod (both are extremely awkward), but Lily is sweet to all those around her while Jarrod is bitter and unlikable from start to finish.  As Jay pointed out last night, is it really a happy ending if these two end up together?  Lily could do so much better!

If you can get over that, and I can get over pretty much any plot hole if I am being entertained, there is a lot to like here.  This movie is memorably quirky and has quite a few hilarious moments, including the death of a seagull and some fantastic animal costumes (including an eagle and a shark)!

Overall, this is an enjoyable movie about a pair of social misfits, and there are some great moments here, but since Napoleon Dynamite did this material first it takes away the originality and uniqueness that might otherwise have been this movie’s calling card.  Still, it’s worth checking out.  I’d say watch them both and let me know which one you prefer!

 

Boy

Last week I blogged about watching What We Do in the Shadows, the latest endeavour from Taika Waititi, whose work in my opinion cannot be missed. This week I went back in time to watch 2010’s Boy.

“Boy” is 11 years old in 1984. He loves Michael Jackson and girls, employing the former’s dance BOY_1moves to lure and impress the latter. He lives on a small farm with his grandmother, his younger brother Rocky, and several young cousins. When grandma has to go away for a funeral, Boy is in charge of the household. At home he’s a grown up, cooking and cleaning and caring for the little ones. At school he’s still just a kid, making up stories about his jail-bird dad and getting into fights when those stories aren’t believed.

But then one day his dad shows up, along with two friends. They’re only intended to stay long enough to find the stolen money they buried before being pinched by the cops, but Boy sees it as potential bonding time.

It’s clear that the father is even less mature than his sons. He doesn’t know how to join them in grieving their dead mother, doesn’t know how to make up for lost time, doesn’t know how to boyput others first, and certainly doesn’t know how to give a decent haircut (though this doesn’t stop him from trying).

Watching this movie, I was struck by how Waititi feels a bit like a low-budget, New Zealand version of Wes Anderson. I don’t mean this in a copycat way, but rather that his movies share a certain randomness paired with an attention to detail that makes for a delightfully off-kilter movie going experience.

Waititi is bursting with talent, but he doesn’t spread himself too thin. He’ll workshop a script for years just to get it right, which means that there’s far too little of this innovative filmmaker to be boy-taika2had. I first came across him with what has become one of my favourite laugh-out-loud, painfully awkward comedies, Eagle VS Shark. Turns out, he was already an Oscar nominee by then, having received a nom for his live-action short, Two Cars, One Night (he lost but famously pretended to doze off as the list of nominees was read). He’s written and directed stuff for Flight of the Conchords (Jemaine Clement is a longtime friend and collaborator; the pair toured together as award-winning comedy duo The Humourbeasts). He’s also had a taste of big Hollywood, having starred opposite Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern. But it’s these three movies (Eagle VS Shark, Boy, and What We Do in the Shadows) that are GOLD. You can’t ask for better than that. But I am asking for more.

What We Do In The Shadows

In 2008 I came across this brilliant movie, Eagle vs Shark. It’s a special brand of dry and awkward humour that’s only really appreciated by about 0.3% of the population and so of course I started using it as a social barometer. It’s how Sean went from ‘guy I’m sleeping with’ to ‘husband’ (we clementshadowshad no in-between). That’s not to say he didn’t shoot me weird looks during the movie, but he laughed in the right places and so I knew it was safe to fall in love.

Taika Waititi wrote and directed Eagle vs Shark, bringing along pal and fellow countryman Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) to star, and they’re back again with What We Do in the Shadows, sharing duties and screen time. It’s not easy to get such an offbeat comedy from New Zealand shown in North American theatres (I believe crowd funding was involved) so I consider myself lucky that one lonely theatre is showing it here in Ottawa.

The movie is a mockumentary involving the daily lives of a small group of vampires who decided for better or worse to eschew the typical haunted castle in Europe route and room together in taikashadowsNew Zealand instead. The documentary crew follows them as they encounter the normal highs and lows of flatting together, sorting out who does the dishes, who picks up the dry cleaning. A chore wheel goes unused. A couch that wasn’t red now is – one vampire suggests putting down newspapers before they eat someone, or towels, perhaps, but “We’re vampires, we don’t put down towels” responds another. Like The Real World, only they just happen to also be vampires, sometimes many hundreds of years old.

The vampire genre might be overworked and overtired these days, but this one feels fresh and what-we-do-in-the-shadows-image-1inspired, living up to the high bar set by Christopher Guest and the likes of Best in Show.  My sides ached from constant laughter, the nicest ache I know. Waititi, Clement, and co-stars work really well together. It’s clear that tonnes of improvisation must have gone into this, the dead-pan delivery spot-on, the timing the best you’ll see. It never feels like a straight parody. It’s much too clever for that. Instead it finds humour in the mundane, staying for away from the obvious and easy but finding gold everywhere else.

 

 

Muppets Most Wanted

muppetsThis movie picks up exactly where the last one left off, with a rousing musical number about how this is a sequel, and as we all know, the sequel’s never quite as good.

The gang is lured into a world tour by Ricky Gervais playing Mr. Badguy, an agent who’ll give them everything they want, but is secretly the number two to Constantine: world’s most dangerous frog (!). Constantine and Badguy are on a crime spree and are using the Muppets as a front, except for poor Kermit who’s been sent to a Russian gulag as a stand-in for his look-alike, Constantine. Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and Mr. Eagle are on the case (Interpol, CIA), and as soon as Napoleon’s leisurely European 6 hour lunch break is over, they might actually solve it and save the day.

Gervais looks like his appearance in this film is court-mandated. He’s not having any fun and he tysucks the life out of all the scenes he’s in. Burrell is made for this stuff, and has actual chemistry with a big blue eagle. Tina Fey, playing the gulag’s strict warden, is the stand-out. The moment Kermit is rolled into the prison wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask, you know the Siberian scenes will be your favourite. Fey’s number “In the Big House” seals the deal; it’s the best of the bunch. And the fact that she’s backed up by doo-wopping prisoners played by Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta and Jemaine Clement wearing a crown of sporks just cements it. In fact, seeing Ray Liotta with wagging knees and jazz hands just might make the movie. The only problem with that is that these most cherished scenes are virtually muppet-MUPPETS MOST WANTEDfree, and if muppets are upstaged by humans in a Muppet movie, you’re sunk.

Bret McKenzie, (the other half of Clement’s Flight of the Conchords) is back again after winning the Oscar for his work on the first film (“Man or Muppet”, best original song), but the music has lost its lustre. It’s a lustreless film in general. Maybe we’re just missing the magic that Jason Segel brought, his fandom really breathed life into the franchise and nostalgia played high for us all.

Muppets Most Wanted is just as chock-full of cameos as the its predecessor. Blink and you’ll miss them: Tony Bennett, James McAvoy, the dude from Downton Abbey, Christoph Waltz dancing the waltz, Salma Hayek, Stanely Tucci, Zach Galifinakis, Puff Daddy. And the list continues! It feels a little like more time was spent on lining up cameos than thinking up plot, and that’s too bad, because on paper this film had all the potential of the 2011’s The Muppets, but this is a sequel, and as we all know, the sequel’s never quite as good.