Tag Archives: Netflix and chill

Ithaca

Should you tip the boy who brings you the telegram that says your son is dead?

That dilemma and others covered in Ithaca, loosely based on William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy, which is not remotely funny. But it did give Meg Ryan some comfort when she was going through her divorce from Dennis Quaid, so what better material to use in her directorial debut?

ithaca9f-2-webShe plays the mother of sons, a hard thing to be in 1942; Marcus, who is off to war (played by Jack Quaid, Ryan’s actual son), Homer (Alex Neustaedter) who struggles with being the 14 year old man of the house now that his father (Tom Hanks) is gone, and little Ulysses (Spencer Howell) who doesn’t remember anything different.

This is really Homer’s story and the growing up he had to do. He’s such an exuberant kid at the start of the film, determined to be the best and fastest bike messenger in town. But 1942 means WW2, and WW2 means lots of devastating telegrams. How does it transform a 14 year old kid to deliver grief in an envelope? To witness the moment a woman is made a widow? To see a mother torn apart by pain? That’s pretty heavy stuff to be grappling with when you’re also mooning over your first crush and taking your little brother down to the local fishing hole. It makes for a heightened existance, but it’s also just life for Homer, who has his own little odyssey to live.

The film is a little under-achieving, a retread of themes we’ve seen elsewhere, and often. Sam Shepard has a pretty compelling role, which makes up for the very rare glimpses we get of Hanks. If it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, it’s still bittersweet in its nostalgia, and tucked sufficiently at my heart strings. Meg Ryan hasn’t hit it out of the ballpark on her first swing as director, but don’t count her out.

 

 

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The Accidental Husband

A “love doctor” radio host counsels a caller to break up with her fiance. The jilted ex vows revenge on said love doctor. Hilarity ensues?

This plot is so predictable. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the fire fighter who gets left in advance of the alter. He doesn’t stop for even a second to ask himself if perhaps his gaping immaturity might be a contributing factor, and instead hatches a plan for vengeance against the well-meaning woman (Uma Thurman) who suggested that a caller follow her own intuition and call off a hastily planned wedding to a guy she’d only known a few months. His plan is to of course humiliate the good doctor in her own love life, making it impossible for her to wed her intended (Colin Firth).

1533_largeIf you’ve seen more than 5 movies, then you already know what’s going to happen: she’s going to hate the hell out of Jeffrey Dean Morgan right up to the moment when she falls madly in love with him. She will ditch her fiance, who is not a bad guy, whose only flaw seems to be believing his girlfriend isn’t a complete whack job.

I loathe this movie. I detest all movies like it. I can’t even decide if it’s more demeaning to women or to men but it’s god-awful and doesn’t even have the courtesy to make sense. Spoiler alert: this movie is for the brainless. If this is your idea of a romantic comedy, you deserve to die alone, your bloated corpse eaten by your cats who never respected you anyway.

The Accidental Husband has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and this had made me FURIOUS. Who is the piece of shit 6% who’s ruining it for the rest of us? Well, I was incensed enough to track her down: her name is S. Jhoanna Robledo and she’s the ONLY critic who gave it a fresh rating, and I’m assuming also the only critic to have guzzled the sperm of this movie’s lousy director, Griffin Dunne (who has not been allowed to direct a movie since, thank fuck). Robledo writes for Common Sense Media, a website that – get this! – helps parents decide if a movie is okay for kids to watch. She told parents that The Accidental Husband is “teen-friendly” but forgot to mention the part where it makes monsters and rapists out of boys and pathetic, subservient nincompoops out of girls. Christ Almighty.

The Whole Truth

It’s possible that if Keanu doesn’t play a lawyer at least once per decade he’ll die. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain his casting as a lawyer ever, because he’s barely credible as the sandwich guy who delivers lunch to law firms.

hero_TheWholeTruth-2016-1In The Whole Truth, Keanu does indeed play a lawyer who is defending the son of a former colleague and longtime friend. The son is accused of killing his father, that very same former colleague and longtime friend. I’m sure Keanu would like to believe that his client is innocent, but his client isn’t talking. And his client’s mother (Renee Zellweger) is mostly weeping, and begging Keanu to save her son’s life.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is above this material, plays a lawyer assigned to help Keanu, and be less of a dick in the courtroom than he is, which is a role that could have been fulfilled by Andy Dick or Jeremy Piven or goddamned Jim Belushi, who was actually busy playing the murder victim, but you catch my drift. It wasn’t a high bar.

Anyway. It’s derivative. It’s one of those “unravel the plot” movies probably based on a mystery novel only sold in drug stores. When “the whole truth” is finally revealed, you probably won’t be around to hear it, having already changed the channel, and you certainly won’t give a shit. The ending isn’t earned, it doesn’t pack a punch, it’s just a fart in the wind (is that a saying?).

I’m dubious, Keanu.

Monsters Vs Aliens Vs Megamind

Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is a blushing bride-to-be until she’s struck down by a meteorite on her wedding day and mutates into a “monster” – a giant who’ll be called Ginormica. She’s transferred to a government “hotel,” the kind with bars on the windows, where she’ll be kept locked away along with other monsters like her – namely, BOB, a gelatinous type who eats\absorbs everything in his path (voiced by Seth Rogen); Doctor Cockroach, now an actual cockroach after unfortunate experimentation (voiced by Hugh Laurie); The Missing Link (Will Arnett); and Insectosaurus, who’s, yes, a giant bug.

Susan is adamant that she will get better and return home, to her “normal” life, but it seems like life has already moved on without her (I of course refer to her scuzzy, self-sMonsters-vs-alienserving prick of a fiance, Paul Rudd). So the monsters basically sit around playing cards until Doom arrives. Planet Earth is threatened by an evil alien by the name of Gallaxahr (Rainn Wilson), so the government reluctantly calls on the very monsters they’ve imprisoned to save them from certain death. This being a kids’ movie, you can be pretty sure that Good will triumph over Evil, and even better, Susan will start to feel empowered in Ginormica’s skin. It’s colourful and rapid-fire so kids will  be entertained. For adults, though this Dreamworks effort lacks the depth of better animated movies of late, it’s got some great satirical references and a stellar voice cast, including Stephen Colbert, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Kiefer Sutherland, Julie White, Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Poehler, and Renee Zellweger, in addition to those already named.

If the monsters feel familiar to you, they are indeed inspired by classic monster movies: Ginormica and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman; BOB and The Blob; The Missing Link and Creature From The Black Lagoon; Dr. Cockroach and The Fly; Insectosaurus and… Godzilla? Mothra? The T-rex from Jurassic Park? Some delicious hybrid, is my guess.

Megamind is another Dreamworks animated film with its own references, this time to Superman. The whole movie seems predicated on the question: what would happen if Lex Luthor defeated Superman? Not stepping on any toes, the hero in question is here called Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt), and he’s been keeping Metro City safe from inept villain 960MegaMind (Will Ferrell) since they were kids. With an undeniably familiar origin story and a beautiful ace reporter on the scene (Roxanne Richie, voiced by Tina Fey) and a bumbling camera guy (Jonah Hill), you’ll find a whole new appreciate for Superman and his plight.

On a day when the entirety of Metro City is gathered in adulation of Metro Man, Megamind is finally (surprisingly) victorious. Metro Man is dead. The city belongs to Megamind! Everything goes to hell – Metro City is in ruins, but so is, curiously, Megamind’s mental health. Why? Because a villain isn’t a villain without a hero as his counterpoint. In his infinite wisdom, Megamind thus decides to take awkward camera guy and turn him into Metro City’s new superhero, Tighten.

There is no new ground tread in this film, and it’s not as funny as the excellent voice cast will have you believe – Ben Stiller, David Cross, Justin Theroux, and JK Simmons included. Benignly diverting is the best I can say about it – supposedly Guillermo del Toro lent a hand in editing to make it more exciting, and it is that, but for most, I think it will end up being a little forgettable.

 

Sandy Wexler

Sandy Wexler is the latest Adam Sandler comedy to hit Netflix; it’s the third in his ground-breaking four-movie deal with them, and in fact, it has just been announced that he’s re-upped his contract for four more: eight movies total. Like him or not, Adam Sandler’s movies have been consistent money makers. His first two tries on Netflix were absolute garbage so it’s weird to me that Netflix was so eager to extend him. It can only mean one thing: people are watching.

sandy-wexler-teaser-still-510x0And here’s the thing: Sandy Wexler isn’t awful. It’s not great, but it’s way more watchable than his previous Netflix efforts. He plays a 1990s-era show business talent who has a bunch of misfits for clients: a vantriloquist, a contortionist, an actress who never gets hired, a third-rate stand-up comedian who only got one star on Star Search. But then he discovers a woman singing her heart out as the ugly duckling\beautiful swan in a children’s play. Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson plays Courtney, a singer so talented that even her weirdo manager Sandy can’t hamper her rocket to stardom.

Sandler does an annoying Sandler voice for Sandy, but he’s otherwise an interesting character. Socially awkward? Too mild: more like socially clueless. Socially backwards. Adam Sandler has a LOT of famous friends in Hollywood, and they all gather in this movie to say crap things about Sandy Wexler, and it’s kind of hilarious. But as we get to know him, we understand that it’s all true. We laugh at his misfires, and we laugh at the easy, time-period-related jokes (example: Arsenio Hall pops up, quite confident that he’ll be famous forever). There are fantastic 90s-era cameos in this film, and if you have any love for the decade, you’ll no doubt have some appreciate for this. The comedy is cheap though. Bargain bin. If you aren’t a fan of Adam, this is NOT the movie that’s going to change your mind. But if you have a soft spot for his trademark juvenile humour, this is a step in the right direction.

 

The Discovery

How would your life change if tomorrow you read in the newspaper that science had confirmed the existence of an afterlife?

A scientist does just that in Netflix’s The Discovery, and his announcement shakes the world. Suicides skyrocket immediately. Is he responsible?

Robert Redford plays Thomas, the scientist in question. A year after the big announcement, he’s basically a recluse, still working on his theories in secret with his son Toby (Jesse Plemmons) and a cult’s worth of helpful believers. He’s pushing the envelope, wanting and needing more and more confirmation – if not for the world at large, at least for himself. It’s personal.

1393540Another son, Will (Jason Segel), estranged from his father since the discovery, returns home. On the return journey he meets a woman named Isla (Rooney Mara) who has her own reasons for questioning the afterlife.

This film provokes a lot of existential questions that not everyone will be comfortable with. But there’s a beauty in finding meaning in life. Believer or not, it draws you in to its essential mystery. Unfortunately, the seed is strongly than the story. It’s a great what-if idea but lacks the terrific follow-through I was hoping for. Your enjoyment of this film depends on how well you deal with great thoughts vs great plots. If you like the ethereal quality of Vanilla Sky, this might be your jam. I certainly enjoyed it, perhaps especially for the thoughtful discussion it generates after viewing.

Would such a discovery be best kept secret? Can you even keep something like this secret? And if the meaning of life and death are in flux, is suicide even the end game – mightn’t some take it a step further? This movie’s a little ambitious for its britches, but I admire that.

Redford does great work in his juiciest role in quite a bit – the mad scientist is off-kilter and complex, and perhaps hasn’t quite thought through all the consequences. His sons provide interesting counterpoint: Toby’s adoration and Will’s skepticism temper Thomas’s zeal. Plemmons is delightfully madcap while Segel plays the stoic. The Discovery is well-cast and thought-provoking and worthy of your time.

David Brent: Life on the Road

David Brent is the same sad-sack you knew from The Office all those years ago. He works in a different office now, barely, and he’s still possessed of this illusions of grandeur that made him so pathetically lovable. He’s decided to fund a rock star tour to live out his David-Brent-Life-on-the-Road-1wildest fantasy in the hopes that he’ll find his sound, and his audience (and presumably some talent).

Ricky Gervais reprises his beloved The Office character, but David Brent is the only familiar face in this new film, so fans hoping the rekindle the magic will be disappointed. The good news is, so will everyone else. The truth is, it just doesn’t work. David Brent is a tired joke and Gervais doesn’t have anything new for the character, despite the 15 year interval. And without the proper context (and the necessary supporting characters, who humanize him), David Brent feels a lot more annoyingly contemptible rather than the lovable loser we need him to be.

It’s raining right now in Ottawa. It’s just a notch above freezing, which means the rain is 46169fb95db6c57995e32557d972456d.jpgwashing away some of our snow, and the flooded streets are gray and sickly-looking, the disappearing snow uncovering all the gross things hidden over the winter: cigarette butts, McDonald’s wrappers, and a sad collection of lost gloves.

David Brent: Life on the Road is like a lost glove. On its own, it’s useless. It’s sad and forlorn and frankly, it’s only fit for the garbage.

 

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

Poor Ruth. Life is rough. A mean old client just died on her while she was in the room. Her house was broken into, her grandmother’s silver stolen. And her neighbour’s dog keeps shitting on her lawn! Somewhere in there was her breaking point.

MV5BMTQ4NjIyNzY2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY4NDE5MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1571,1000_AL_So she can be forgiven for recruiting a weirdo neighbour who has “ninja sticks” to “ride with her” on a mission to retrieve some of her stolen stuff. How empowering! Now Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is unleashed and creepy neighbour guy (Elijah Wood), well, he was always a little unhinged.

But wait: this movie is written and directed by Macon Blair, the actor who so unsettled me in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room. I can’t help but suspect something a little more sinister from a man of that pedigree. And true to his spirit there will be some interesting elder abuse, some more out-of-toilet pooping, a really great church singalong, projectile vomiting, and some very unnecessary rat tails.

Now, it’s nearly always entertaining when lay people decide to take justice into their own hands. And it’s nearly always a bad idea. Perhaps they wouldn’t be so tempted if movie cops weren’t always so inept, so unwilling or unable to do their jobs. As you may have guessed, Ruth is not having ANY OF THAT.

Melanie Lynskey is a pretty underrated actress. Watching her go from meek to badass in this role is a whole lot of fun. Recently she was at SXSW and sat in conversation with her Sadie director, Megan Griffiths. She talked about sustaining her stellar indie career with a profitable recurring role on Two And A Half Men, and relying on her gut when choosing roles: “I learned that I operate very much from instinct. It has to come from somewhere that’s very truthful inside of me…” If this role comes from a truthful place inside her, well by god, this necessitates a whole other conversation!

 

 

Independence Day: Resurgence

id4Will Smith was right to avoid this one.  Honestly, he must be embarrassed for his likeness to have made a brief appearance in this debacle.  Jeff Goldblum should feel even worse for having taken the money to appear in this thing.  Independence Day: Resurgence is every bit as terrible as you’ve heard.  Now that it’s on Netflix, I felt I had to check it out to be sure.  I am writing this solely to ensure you don’t make the same mistake.

Independence Day: Resurgence starts out terribly and does not improve one bit.  If anything it gets dumber as it goes, by taking us to a moonbase, then having an alien ship that measures 3,000 miles across sneak past all Earth’s defences, and then creating a totally unnecessary back story for the aliens involving a different alien/robot/spaceship.  Well, totally unnecessary except that it conveniently sets up a sequel!  Do me a favour and stay off Kickstarter if you think a third Independence Day sounds like a good idea.

It’s just a mess.  Like peeing your pants, which two of our heroes admit to doing after one of several mediocre action scenes.  Billy Madison made peeing your pants cool, but Liam Hemsworth and Travis Tope prove here they cannot pull off the same thing.  Not that I could pull it off either but at least I know enough not to try.  Despite what my love of comic book movies may suggest, I’m not six years old.

If you are still on fence about this movie then I’ve failed, and in that case I have to wonder whether you were worth saving anyway.   Independence Day: Resurgence gets a score of 3 soiled undies out of ten.

Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special

Peak 1990s Michael Bolton was a cheesy, long haired dude who belonged in my mother’s cheesy CD collection, not mine. He was “adult contemporary” in the worst way imaginable. But then he cut off his mane and hooked up with Lonely Planet. The result?

 

Wait a minute: Michael Bolton has a sense of humour about himself? Indeed he does. And if you thought the above three minutes were worth a hoot, then you should definitely check out his Valentine’s special on Netflix because it’s a whole hour worth of laughs. If you’re anything like me and can’t handle sappy movies without copious eye rolls and squirms, and you think the softcore porn of Fifty Shades of Whatever is just plain undignified, finally we’ve got something you and your hunny can curl up to.  Laughter makes couples stronger – trust me, it’s science.

But you certainly don’t need to be a couple to enjoy this as its basic function is to poke fun michaelboltonsbigsexyvalentinesdayspecial_2at the whole romantic notion anyway. The premise, which is a generous way to describe it, is this: Santa needs an extra 75k babies to deliver presents to by next Christmas, so Michael Bolton agrees to host a sexy telethon to inspire love\baby making. Answering the phones of this telethon include seldom-thought of celebrities such as Brooke Shields, Sinbad, and Janeane Garofalo. But that’s hardly the limit as far as celebrity cameos go. Bolton is helped by the likes of Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, and very briefly, his best friend Adam Scott. Plus about 2 dozen more.

Bottom line, it’s stupid. It’s quite stupid. It was the kind of stupid I enjoyed because it’s skeweringly silly, raunchy, sparkling with tongue-in-cheek homages. It’s quite reminiscent of the Bill Murray Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas. And the truth is, Michael Bolton still sounds good. So on the rare occasion when he actually does sing, it’s perfectly pleasing. But it’s never, ever with a straight face. And that’s what makes it stupidly glorious.

 

[It also begs the question: what’s next? Murray got Christmas, Bolton got Valentine’s…who would you like to see tackle a holiday?]