Tag Archives: Judy Greer

Valley Girl (2020)

First: a word about Logan Paul. Logan Paul is a Youtube star. “Star.” I know his name but not his content; he’s the brand of entitled-obnoxious that my life doesn’t need so I’ve never seen a single thing he’s done. I do know he’s been controversial, though. The first I heard of him, he’d gone to the suicide forest in Japan in late 2017 and posted a video of the corpse of a recently deceased (hanged) man. Cue uproar, cue “apology.” Youtube gave him a slap on the wrist (with 25M subscribers, their partnership is extremely lucrative to both) but he was back at it just a few weeks later. He’s sexist, he’s homophobic, he’s racist. Basically, he’s a giant douche. Valley Girl director Rachel Lee Goldenberg had the misfortune of casting him in her movie to play…well, a giant douche as it happens. This was in the spring of 2017, before the big controversies started to add up. The film was scheduled for a 2018 release by they scrapped it due to his involvement. This poor movie has languished on some shelf in Hollywood, serving a sentence for crimes committed by a single cast member. So yes, I acknowledge that Logan Paul is a problematic douche nozzle and we all wish he wasn’t in this movie even though he’s actually perfectly cast. With that said, onto the movie.

Yes, this is a remake of the 1983 film of the same name, starring Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman. Foreman played Julie, a perfect, preppie valley girl who falls for a punk (Cage) from the wrong side of the hills. In the 2020 version, Julie is a proper grown up. She (Alicia Silverstone) is a mom now, and she recounts this teenage romance to her daughter.

Cue: the 1980s. Cue the leg warmers, the big hair, the jazzercize, the popped collars. A young Julie (Jessica Rothe) frolics on the beach with her gal pals and then hits up the mall. She’s dating arrogant jock Mickey (Logan Paul) but an edgier guy has grabbed her eye. Randy (Josh Whitehouse) is not a punk, because punk is dead, but if she’s a little bit country, he’s a little bit rock n roll. Her friends think she’s having a nervous breakdown but as far as rebellious streaks go it’s actually pretty tame – just dreaming of leaving the suburbs and maybe prioritizing a career instead of marriage and motherhood.

2020’s Valley Girl is somehow even more 80s than the original: it’s an homage, a love letter, a glossy, hair sprayed tribute, and in doing so, it’s rounded out the edges and presents a sanitized pop version for your nostalgia cravings. This Valley Girl is a jukebox musical which means every song sung will be one you know; the retro soundtrack includes We Got the Beat, Bad Reputation, Hey Mickey, Call Me, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Kids in America, Just Can’t Get Enough, Material Girl, Safety Dance, Take On Me, Under Pressure, I Melt With You…well, you get the picture. The 80s vibes are strong in this one.

Is this a life-changing movie? No. Is this a great piece of cinema? Still no. But if you’re willing to embrace the cheese, it’s actually quite a bit of fun. And the great thing about the 80s is that you don’t actually have to have lived through them to be nostalgic for them. It feels like the nostalgia was baked right into the decade (and quite possibly Tang flavoured). Play I-Spy during the carefully curated costume party: can you spot Boy George – George Michael – Michael Jackson?

This movie is Grease meets Trolls World Tour meets Romeo and Juliet, but feels like it’s a 90 minute version of those Tiffany videos she used to shoot at the mall. Valley Girl knows what it is and isn’t afraid to lean right in. This is the 80s, turned up to 11.

Playing With Fire

Directors think John Cena is a bargain The Rock, but what they’re really getting is an overpriced tree stump. He has the personality of dry, slightly burnt toast.

It’s not entirely Cena’s fault. Director Andy Fickman clearly has no vision and no funny bone. He’s not sure whether he’s making a satire or a slapstick comedy. I mean, he’s not making a satire. Satire implies a basic level of intellect. Parody might be closer to what I mean but he’s not even doing that because parody implies you’re being bad on purpose. And the purpose is generally comedy. But nothing here is funny. The attempts at humour are such dismal misfires they suck the oxygen out of the room so fast it’ll flip your eyelids inside out. True story.

The slapstick, such as it is, is an even bigger problem. Physical comedy is the lowest form of humour. There’s such a high risk of failure it should only be attempted by a master. There are no masters in Playing With Fire. They aren’t even comedy interns. Not even comedy fetuses (feti?). They’re just monkeys flinging shit.

John Cena has the range of a rock. I can’t really blame him for eagerly shoveling up Dwayne Johnson’s leftovers. Hell, he’s probably pretty grateful for Dave Bautista’s scraps. But Keegan-Michael Key, I’m disappointed in you. Jordan Peele’s out here making the world a better/scarier place with his incisive social commentary and you’re…tasting farts. While playing second fiddle to JOHN FUCKING CENA.

The script is should have been flushed, and not because it’s a dead goldfish. It’s probably the worst offender in this huge steaming pile of donkey excrement. The script is to subtlety what Donald Trump is to modesty. Yeah, this review ain’t subtle either.

John Cena plays a fire fighter who prefers to be called a smoke jumper. He’s got a dweeb haircut and a complete absence of personality. He and his colleagues-in-flames (Key, and John Leguizamo) save a trio of runaways and end up pulling babysitting duty in their firehouse while the kids do more damage than a pack of wild dingos.

We have 3 categories here at Assholes Watching Movies – Kick Ass, Half-Assed, and Sucks Ass – and until now, that’s been enough. But I’m petitioning to add a fourth one because Playing With Fire EATS ass.

Can’t stop won’t stop ranting.

Henry’s Crime

We are sitting smack dab in the golden days of the Summer of Keanu – John Wick 3, Always Be My Maybe, Toy Story 4 – a real career renaissance for Hollywood’s nicest leading man, a Keanussance if you will, though it doesn’t roll of the tongue quite as convincingly as McConaissance did.

Henry Torne (Keanu Reeves) is a toll booth operator and chronically nice guy in that passive way that drives his wife (Judy Greer) kind of crazy. He’s so nice, in fact, that he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Accused of bank robbery, he protects a friend (Fisher Stevens) and takes the sentence, losing his wife in the process. His cellie is a crazy man named Max (James Caan), away for life. Henry does his time and eventually leaves prison with one important lesson imparted by criminals more hardened than he: you did the time, you may as well have done the crime.

And that thought just niggles at him. So much so that he springs Max out of prison and they befriend a Buffalo actress (Vera Farmiga) who just happens to be doing a play in an old theatre that has a prohibition-era tunnel running from its basement straight to the bank’s vault. Convenient! Love and money, all in one fell swoop.

Of course, Henry is not exactly a professional thief. He got caught – and remember, he got caught for a crime he DIDN’T commit. How much of a disaster is he going to be with the real thing?

Safe to say this film (released in 2011) is NOT part of the Keanussance. Reeves suffers from the coolest of detachments while the rest ham things up. Farmiga in particular is several degrees north of TOO DAMN MUCH. Henry’s Crime is entertaining at times, merely watchable at others, and sometimes it’s just slow and not building to much. Sometimes I’m startled to come across titles featuring several prominent actors that I’ve simply never heard of before, but the reason why usually becomes quite clear, quite quickly. While there are worse crimes than Henry’s, a misdemeanor rather than a felony, it’s still not worth doing time for.

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.

Pottersville

Maynard is the nicest guy in town, so it’s kind of upsetting when he goes home to surprise his wife with a couple of steaks and instead finds her – no, not naked in bed with another man, but dressed up in a plush mascot costume with one, which is somehow worse. She’s not just an adulteress, she’s a furry, the kind of person who gets kicks from dressing up and rubbing herself on someone else, also wearing a sweaty costume.

still1_pottersvilleMaynard is shocked and disturbed, and after a night of drinking, he finds his old hunting gear and an ape mask, though they bring him little consolation. Cut to: the next morning, the small town’s abuzz: big foot is on the loose. It doesn’t take long for Maynard to connect the dots and realize HE’S the one they’re looking for, but he keeps that embarrassing information to himself and the legend grows.

Netflix has a whole bunch of really, um, interesting holiday fare in its lineup this year, and this one stars the likes of Michael Shannon, Judy Greer, Ron Perlman, and Christina Hendricks (as the furry). I kind of dig Michael Shannon. He’s a great actor whose choices sometimes baffle me – this holiday season you can check him out in this, or the Oscar-bound The Shape of Water. Totally up to you. If you’re looking for a Christmas movie that’s light on Christmas, high on conspiracy, and is a tolerable if forgettable watch, well, I can say with confidence that this is the cream of the crop. If it’s also my opinion that the crop this year is spoiled, well, that’s a whole other post.

 

 

All We Had

Katie Holmes directs herself in All We Had, and proves she isn’t afraid to paint herself in an unfavourable light. Rita Carmichael is good at loving men but terrible at picking them. When another loser reaches his expiration date, it’s her daughter Ruthie (Stefania Owen) that knows it’s time to cut ties and get the hell out of dodge. The problem is that Rita and Ruthie are chronically broke. Rita self-medicates for her crappy childhood with nullcheap booze. Between men they live out of their piece of shit car. They have almost nothing going for them but Rita makes keeping Ruthie out of child services her top priority, and so far, she’s always succeeded.

This time, though, it’s going to be extra difficult. Their car breaks down literally in front of the greasy spoon where they just dined-and-dashed and it looks like they’re stuck in whatever crummy small town this is.

All We Had is not a great movie, but it’s not bad. It’s just that Katie Holmes is so hellbent on making this an inspirational story of redemption, she leans heavily on tired formula schtick. Addictions, childhood trauma, financial crisis: this movie has it all, everything except focus. All We Had is the kind of movie you’ll make excuses for – “it means well” you’ll say, and mean  it. But that’s not quite enough. There’s not enough skill here to pull meaning from the good intentions. But if you’re willing to watch Katie Holmes try, All We Had is good for 1 hour and 45 minutes of trial and error and smudged eyeliner.

SXSW: Lemon

At some point we started to wonder if South By SouthWest wasn’t a little incestuous. Yesterday I wrote about a movie called Win It All, which was directed by Joe Swanberg, who has a bit of a creative flirtation going with Jake Johnson. Joe Swanberg also happens to write for the Netflix series Easy. Meanwhile, the writers and director of Lemon also make appearances on another Netflix series, Love. Is Netflix the meeting ground for mumblecore indie spirits?

Anyway. Lemon was written by husband-wife team Janicza Bravo and Brett Gelman. Gelman has the unenviable task of starring in a film that was called Lemon because Isaac, the lead character, is a complete dud. If he was a car, you’d return him directly to the lot and tear your hair out while screaming at the manager. If you’re his girlfriend of a decade, well, you start creating distance, and then you cut and run. That’s what Ramona (Judy Greer) does; she’s only stayed as long as she has because she’s blind, and while her sight hasn’t improved, her self respect has.

The film feels like it has chapters to it. In the first chapter, we see Isaac at work.  He’s a theatre lemon-movie-sundanceteacher, where he over-praises one student, Alex,(Michael Cera) while simultaneously ripping apart another (Gillian Jacobs). Whether he identifies with Alex or is simply jealous of him I can’t divine, but we know that Isaac’s own acting career is in the toilet, almost literally (just about the only thing he’s up for is an incontinence ad). But bonus: Michael Cera, inexplicably bad hair and all, does earn some serious laughs as a super pretentious thespian who’s always “doing some animal work” or some other crazy-obnoxious thing.

The second chapter shows him among his immediate family, which is rife with drama. He’s practically the normal one there, navigating rough waters between his siblings (Martin Starr is his brother) and half-heartedly joining in when his mother (Rhea Perlman) decides it’s sing-along time (a rousing chorus of “A Million Matzoh Balls” is as memorable as it is ridiculous). This is the weirdest family dinner I’ve ever witnessed and was uncomfortably effective at making me feel vicariously bad about myself.

The third chapter focuses more on his post-break-up love life. Despite being a complete loser, he seems to have attracted the attention (or at least the pity) of the beautiful Cleo (Nia Long), whose family is nothing like his. The film makers admitted that the two families represent their own in-law struggles, though I can’t imagine having the courage to put that kind of dirty laundry up on a big screen.

Do you delight in the suffering of others? Isaac is not a redeeming character. He’s thoroughly unlikeable. But the movie itself is almost aggressively odd, from the very first shot. What kind of enjoyment can you derive from schadenfreude? And are you in the mood for something obsessively quirky, something unapologetically, erm, esoteric? These are the questions you must ask yourself before settling in to Lemon.

 

SXSW: Female Voices

It’s International Women’s Day so we’re looking at some of the strong female voices coming out of the South By SouthWest programming this year.

Valerie Weiss: we discovered her work for the first time at the New Hampshire Film Festival, where we saw and really enjoyed A Light Beneath Their Feet. This year she’s giving SXSW the world premiere of her new film, The Archer, about a high school archery champion called Lauren who’s stuck in juvenile correctional facility in the wilderness, after hospitalizing a boy in self-defense. After discovering some not-nice things about her prison and its warden, Lauren goes on the run…but getting away won’t be easy!

Katherine Fairfax Wright: billed as the director, editor AND cinematographer of Behind The Curtain: Todrick Hall, Wright is screening her new documentary about Hall’s ambitious attempt to stage an original musical called Straight Outta Oz about growing up gay and black in small-town Texas.

The Female Lens: Creating Change Beyond The Bubble is a panel about film’s unique ability to do just that, with female directors, writers, and actors all using their work to change the perception of women onscreen and off in real world ways. Jenny Slate, Danielle MacDonald, Gabourey Sibide, and Janicza Bravo discuss how films do (and don’t) alter perceptions of women across America.

Speaking of Janicza Bravo: she’s the director of Lemon, a movie about a middle-aged man who must admit he’s just a dud. The film stars Judy Greer, Brett Gelman, Michael Cera, Nia Long, Rhea Perlman, Gillian Jacobs, Martin Starr, and David Paymer, and I’m betting on it being worth a look.

Eleanor Coppola: Paris Can Wait may be her first fiction film, but she’s starting at the top, with Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin as a lacklustre Hollywood couple wherein the wife goes through a bit of a reawakening.

How Humor is Evolving the Body Positivity Movement is a panel that touches on how comedy has helped start a cultural conversation on the female body, and comedians like Phoebe Robinson and Gillian Jacobs use humour to bring awareness to women’s health and body issues, from miscarriage to mental health.

Alice Lowe: known for her work as a UK television comedy actress, Lowe made her move into film with her screenwriting debut Sightseers, directed by Ben Wheatley, and now she’s dipping her toe into the body horror\dark comedy hybrid genre with Prevenge, about a pregnant woman on a killing spree, with her unborn baby dictating her violent actions. Lowe also stars in Prevenge, which was filmed during her own ACTUAL pregnancy. Kick ass!

 

The Descendants

Matt King’s family has lived in Hawaii for generations. He and his numerous cousins own 25,000 acres of undeveloped land on Kauai held in trust, which ends seven years hence. It makes sense to most to just sell the land, speculation of which has featured prominently in island gossip – after all, to whom they sell could literally change the face of Kauai.

Matt (George Clooney) is a humble enough guy, choosing to live on his attorney’s salary rather than on the wealth that comes with being a land owner. However, his perfect Hawaiian life is a ruse. His rocky marriage is 2011_the_descendants_006surviving only because of his wife’s coma. His 17 year old daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) has been sent off to boarding school due to bad behavior but she returns as her mother is declared brain dead to reveal the nature of the fight she’d had with her mother. It’s all a lot more than Matt feels he can handle, especially now that he’s effectively a single parent.

It’s a satisfying movie about the messiness of life, beautifully filmed on location around Hawaii.

In  1992, Hurricane Iniki tore apart many chicken coops on Kauai that housed birds used for cockfighting. By the time The Descendants went into production, there were thousands of feral chickens roaming the island. In the Kauai scenes, chickens are sometimes seen wandering through the shot. Sometimes the crew had to shoo chickens away before a take. Animators observed the same thing when they were working on Moana, which is why her sidekick is a rooster named Heihei.

Matt decides that he’d rather not sell the land.  “We didn’t do anything to own this land, it was entrusted to us,” and if they sell it, “something we were supposed to protect is gone.” Perhaps losing his wife reminds him of the importance of a family’s legacy. Certainly the film gently reminds us of the land’s fate should it be sold to a developer: contrasting the rolling green hills, we also see condos and golf courses and resorts-in-progress.

The movie fails to engage in a meaningful way about what it means that Matt’s family – “haole as shit” (a derogatory term for white immigrants) – owns so much Hawaiian land. It’s still not as bad as Aloha, a movie about Hawaii featuring an all-star cast of white people.

Sean and I are in Hawaii and on the lookout for feral chickens as we speak.

 

 

Tribeca: Ordinary World

Note: when this film premiered at Tribeca, it was called Geezer.

Perry is the Geezer in question, a middle-aged suburban dad with edgy hair and a family he loves, but he’s just a little bit checked out of his ordinary life. As he turns 40 he’s stewing in what-ifs, foremost among them, what if I hadn’t left my punk rock band just as it was maybe about to take off?

He’s no semblance of a musician now. He works in a hardware store and only manages to sneak in a few chords around his kids’ morning routine. But on the occasion of this milestone birthday he decides to treat himself to the wildest party a has-been can muster before noon and he runs in to an old flame who reignites old dreams.

Geezer_filmIt’s not exactly ground-breaking material but here’s the gimmick that’ll put butts in theatres: it’s Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong playing Perry. And is it pretty effing cool to see him play the guy he might have been had his own post-punk outfit not taken off when it did? Yes, yes it is.

So then the question you’re next going to ask is: Holy shit, can Billie Joe act? And the answer is no, no he can’t. I mean, the director, Lee Kirk, told us he was a great actor, but the movie seemed to indicate that the Kirk’s pants were on fire. Sean thought he was okay – inoffensive, but he never forgot for a 720x405-Geezer_press_1moment that he was watching Billie Joe Armstrong. I, on the other hand, thought it was a scootch worse than that. Unnatural. Self-conscious. Very “you can tell I’m acting because my hand is over here on my hip, which means I’m going through some internal conflict I’m not subtle enough to convey any other way.” And yet I’m not going to condemn him because the movie really is a vehicle for him. He’s what makes it cool and relevant, makes the movie rise above the other mid-life-crisis\path-not-taken meditations. Plus, Kirk pads the cast with some better talent: Judy Greer as the old flame, Selma Blair as the current wife, Chris Messina as the scowling brother, Fred Armisen as an ex-bandmate.

The theme may be familiar, but I still admired the writing. Kirk tries to take a fresh perspective, never blaming the wife and kids for Perry’s lack of success. geezerThe regret without resentment shows maturity I’m surprised to see in a character like Perry. Billie Joe never quite transcends the role, but there is an honest vulnerability there that’s a little charming. And Billie Joe is not just a casting liability, he’s an asset to the soundtrack because he’s written some original music for it, and the movie is never more confidant than when Armstrong is performing. In this he excels. The songs he wrote are great and I imagine they’ll be invading your radio waves sometime soon, lending the movie some major credibility.

I can be certain about the music because we were treated to a concert immediately following the screening. Billie Joe had Green Day drummer Tré Cool backing him up and Jesse Malin on rhythm guitar. They launched into the film’s first song, Devil’s Kind, with Cg0_FVfWYAAgOcuan energy that defies the fact that Armstrong is in fact a middle-aged father of two. They played a couple of Green Day tunes as well, Scattered and then American Idiot, which morphed into Bad Reputation. Oh, did I not mention that Joan Jett was in the house? Yeah, she has a small cameo in the film but she got up on stage and showed the boys what a scene-stealing badass she still is. Her voice hasn’t aged a single minute and the woman’s still sporting leather pants. Armstrong closed the night with Ordinary World, the film’s acoustic ballad, and I couldn’t help but wonder at the twinkly goodness of my life. In the movie of my life, there is no path not taken.

 

Note: Geezer has since undergone  name change. Now known as Ordinary World, it will see a release October 14 2016 – on DVD\streaming and in select theatres.