Tag Archives: Jeremy Renner

The House

I’m feeling uninspired. I’m not sure I can identify the exact problem with this movie. It has a talented cast and a promising premise – and truth be told, it did make me laugh, sporadically. But its squandering of potential deflated my enjoyment of the film.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play parents who love their kid to death and are deeply embarrassed that they can’t afford to send her to her dream college when a town scholarship falls through. Instead of coming clean they decide to open an underground casino with their shadiest friend, who has just been left by his wife in large part due to his gambling addiction.

TELEMMGLPICT000133626218-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqrpfQw2hJyG_yckwxPAr0ggGNY_A2dHyghdflyNWj5P8When The House has the strongest pulse, it’s cutting close to satire: the tragic middle class, the American dream, the panic of empty nesters. But unfortunately it relies too heavily on its stars to do “bits” rather than writing actual characters who could stand up on their own. I don’t know who Ferrell and Poehler were supposed to be as people, and it’s possible they didn’t know either. They just pop up, unformed, clown around, and never even stumble into an arc.

The comedy pinballs from farce to the strangely violent; yes, it’s uneven, but it’s also way darker than it needs to be. It’s trying to be wild and crazy, and adding Jason Mantzoukas to the mix is definitely the right choice as he electrifies every scene he’s in. But it’s not enough. The movie falls flat every time they step away from him, the Ferrell and Poehler characters seeming lost and sending out mixed signals. They seem content within their little bubble, then they rail against, then they profit from it. They pay for their mistakes by taking from their friends and neighbours. It feels unseemly, and it’s hard to root for them. Hectic editing tries to cover for plotting that’s just plain absurd. And the writing’s just lazy. I wasn’t even allowed to turn in a first draft of a seventh grade composition, yet this whole $40M budget movie got made based on a rough draft. A very rough draft.

It feels like we’re overdue for a genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy, but this isn’t it. It cracked me up in a few places, but never without letting me see how hard the actors were working to land the sub-par material. It’s a meh of a movie and easily forgotten.

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TIFF: Arrival

Arrival is exactly the kind of sci-fi film I’ve been waiting for all my life.

There are no guns, no star wars, no green men, no space cowboys, no mutually-assured destruction. The aliens touch down, and we’re not sure what their intentions are. Do we fire lasers at them? No. We study them. We gather together top academics, and we attempt to learn, peacefully (with the army on speed dial, just in case).

Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks. Of all the people on Earth talking to arrival-movie-1-600x399aliens, she’s the one who listens well enough to actually crack the code. And it’s a hell of a code, unlike anything our puny human brains can really comprehend. This deep gulf of understanding makes plenty of people nervous – people with their fingers hovering over big red buttons. Annihilation-type buttons. Dr. Banks puts her own life at risk to keep things from escalating to an out-and-out global (universal? galaxal?) war.

Amy Adams is as good at playing Dr. Banks as Dr. Banks is at solving language problems. Both are beautiful to watch. Director Denis Villeneuve worked doggedly to make sure all the science is sound, but it’s also almost magical. It makes me want to call it the movie Interstellar aspired to be: rooted in science, hinging on human connection.

Arrival is the most intimate of sci-fi films, the aliens (if that’s what they are) almost incidental to humanity’s expanding comprehension of time and memory. It’s like poetry. And it doesn’t hurt one bit that visually, it’s slick as hell. Bradford Young’s cinematography is nearly stark, but it is absolutely arrival2arresting. It works in synchronicity with a hauntingly beautify score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Twinned together they remind you that though the plot feels startlingly realistic for a sci-fi film, there’s something otherworldly at play. Young’s work is atmospheric, Jóhannsson’s is pulsating.

It’s refreshing to have an alien encounter that relies on communication rather than violence, and to have a woman stepping in as Hero(ine) feels only natural. In fact, the only part of the movie that didn’t gel for me is a 2-minute montage that serves to pilot the plot further ahead and is narrated by Ian (Jeremy Renner). The rest of the story is told completely through the eyes of Louise, so to have her voice suspended during these few scenes is jarring and emotionally blunting.

Adams, though, is faultless; she turns out a character that is mature and complex, and I won’t be one bit surprised to see her name alongside Natalie Portman’s, and likely Emma Stone’s, come Oscar time.