Tag Archives: Nick Offerman

Hearts Beat Loud

First off: Brett Haley. Can we just get a round of applause for this guy? He’s way too young to be making such grown up movies, and yet he’s dazzled me with I’ll See You In My Dreams, utterly charmed me with The Hero, and now he’s blown my fucking socks off. And he must be a damn good guy too – not just because he writes such thoughtful, sensitive stuff (the credit for which must be shared with his writing partner Marc Basch), but because his actors keep coming back. I’ll See You In My Dreams gave a much-needed starring role to the lovely Blythe Danner, with Sam Elliott by her side, and then Elliott grabbed the titular role in The Hero, with Nick Offerman as a sidekick, and in Hearts Beat Loud Offerman earns leading man status, with Blythe Danner gracing us with her presence yet again.

Secondly: Nick Offerman. Man. If you’ve known me for more than 30 seconds, you probably know that sort of low-key love him. Not romantically. The kind of love where I’d just happily get into some flannel pajamas and deposit myself between him and his lovely wife (Megan Mullally) and eat cashews with them all day long. Without knowing them personally AT ALL, I get the impression that the Mullally-Offerman household is pretty down to earth and, frankly, a bit goofy. And I think they both make really interesting choices as far as work – not really taking the glitzy roles their TV fame has assured them.

So you had me at Haley. Or Offerman. But both? Are you trying to kill me?

And then the story. Offerman plays Frank Fisher, single (widowed) father to Sam (Kiersey Clemons). The two basically grew up together when a dead wife\mother left them in a puddle of grief, but as Sam has neared adulthood, she’s needed her father less and less. And now that his record store is failing and she’s about to move away for Hearts Beat Loud - Still 1college, Frank is wondering who in the hell he is. His landlady (Toni Collette…oh, did I not mention that the phenomenal Toni Collette is in this?) is sympathetic, his barman\best friend Dave is sympathetic (Ted Danson…oh, did I not mention that Ted Danson is in this, and he’s tending bar???), but good intentions aren’t enough to set this wandering soul on the right path. What does help, enormously, is making music with his daughter. The only problem? He’s ready to start a band with her, and she’s still adamant that medical school is in her immediate future. And what kind of father doesn’t want his brainy daughter to pursue her doctor dreams?

This movie gets everything right, but let me be more specific. The music. The goddamn music. A movie like this can be made or broken by how good the music is. We need to believe that music is a viable option, not just some over-inflated jam session, but a true and fresh talent that’s just waiting to be discovered. And we do. In part because Kiersey Clemons has a stunning voice. I’ve loved her in just about everything I’ve seen her in. She’s glowy yet somehow also unprepossessing. But I’ve never heard her sing before, so when she opened her mouth, I think we all did, in that jaw-droppy, holy shit kind of way. But let’s also throw heaps of praise Keegan DeWitt’s way. He’s Haley’s music guy (well, not just Haley’s – dude is in demand, and this movie makes clear why) and he helps to create this sound that is infectious, but also believable from a father-daughter duo, but wouldn’t be out of place on the radio or, perhaps, on my record player (hint, hint).

The music’s lyrics help advance the story as the two write heartfelt songs that are as gutting as they are toe-tapping. Did I cry? Of course I cried. What am I, some sort of monster? But ultimately, as the director himself puts it, Hearts Beat Loud is an “unabashed feel-good film.” It’s also mature and wise and casually inclusive, but screw that – it’s a damn good movie, a fun movie that presses gently on the heart’s chords, and one that deserves to be seen, and then hummed merrily on the way home.



John Ortiz plays Daniel the insurance guy. He knows he’s talking to you on the worst day of your life. He knows you don’t want to talk to him. Whether you’ve been robbed or had a fire or lost a loved one, he’s the guy who helps you determine what you’ve lost, what you still have, and how much it’s all worth. But insurance guys stop at the dollar value. What, really, are those objects worth to you?

Nostalgia explores grief, loss, memory, and our attachment to the things in our lives. The movie hosts several vignettes that help unpack this notion of the valuable item. An old man (Bruce Dern) is dying, and believes his home is filled with nothing but trash. A widow (Ellen Burstyn) suffers a fire and saves only one item, one she prizes only because it was once important to her dead husband, and clashes with her grown son (Nick Offerman) over keeping it. A brother (Jon Hamm) and sister (Catherine Keener) sift through their late father’s possessions ahead of selling his now empty house. Some nostalgia_09people want to keep everything, even if they cannot bear to look at it. Some people want to toss everything, keep only memories. There is no right answer. Toughest of all, the movie also explores the notable difference between losing an elderly father and discovering the hand-written love notes he once sent your mother while traveling on business, and losing your teenage daughter and discovering that without her passwords you have no access to any of the dozens of pictures she took every day of her short life.

This movie takes on some tough subjects and inevitably it’s not always a comfortable watch. It can be challenging, but only because it touches our own raw nerves. It’s also surprisingly beautiful, as if with flaring sunlight director Mark Pellington wants to cleanse us of the heaviness we might otherwise take from one tile of the mosaic to another.

This movie made me think and feel. It’s a meditation more than a narrative, a sense of melancholy meant to wash over you. Sometimes it’s maddeningly vague but it’s also expertly acted (Keener and Burstyn are of course favourites and stand-outs). There are quiet gaps meant to be filled with your own reminiscence. You will surely relate to one ore more of the vignettes.

When we think of fire or flood threatening our homes, we think also of which valuables we’d grab if we had the time. There are two kinds of valuables: we’d grab the ones worth the most money, like the jewelry, and we’d grab the ones worth the most sentiment, like the photos. But later, sifting through the ashes, would you have regrets? Would you miss the pots and pans you’ve used to lovingly feed your family for the past thirty years? Would you miss the wallpaper you painstakingly picked out and pasted up with blood, sweat, and tears? What items are worth saving, and what items are worth leaving to someone else? What are YOUR valuables, the ones you hope to pass on, or the ones that have been left to you?

The Little Hours

What if nuns and priests were foul-mouthed and raunchy? Writer-director Jeff Baena apparently has these kinds of thoughts all the time, and he decided to write a whole movie about it, a 30-second punch line stretched to an agonizing 90 minutes.

Three young nuns are having an unhappy time in a convent in the middle ages. the-little-hours-still-1_31377951785_o-1200x520Alessandra (Alison Brie) was placed there by her father (Paul Reiser), because it’s cheaper than paying her dowry, but no amount of needle point can replace the touch of a man. Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) is secretly a witch who thinks a nunnery is a great place to recruit vulnerable young women into the coven she shares with her her lover (Jemima Kirk). Ginevra (Kate Micucci) is generally pretty oblivious but when a sexy deaf-mute (Dave Franco) is brought into the enclave by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), it shakes things up quite a bit.

Despite a pretty talented cast, I think my review could have ended after the first paragraph. There’s just not enough here for a whole movie. I didn’t laugh once. You have to do more than cuss anachronistically to earn my praise. It seems to think that the genre is joke enough in itself but the farce has no target and the film has no point.

My Life As A Zucchini

Zucchini goes to live in an orphanage after his alcoholic mother dies. The orphanage is not a bad place. This is not a bad-orphanage movie. It’s about the broken children who live inside. The kids are there for many reasons (deportation, mental health, abuse, poverty, etc); some can dream of one day returning home, while others know they never will. For the most part the children band together and support one another as they cope with loss.

MV5BMGU1ZDI5Y2ItOTY2OS00ZjBiLThkYzEtZDIxOTA4NmVmMjE3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyOTI5MQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_My Life As A Zucchini is stop-motion animated in a very compelling way. It’s a simple story with colourful characters and a strange title but make no mistake, there’s little silliness awaiting you. It’s a pretty bleak story.

I watched the version dubbed in English, which features voice work by Nick Offerman, Will Forte, Ellen Page, and Amy Sedaris. But even with all this wonderful adult interference, director Claude Barras keeps the story firmly within Zucchini’s corner. The story is told through the eyes of children, almost without taint from the adult world. It is heartbreaking but also tender and compassionate. By focusing on the resilience of children and the difference even one caring person can make, hope shines its rays even on this dark little tale.

I enjoyed this very much. It’s not as heavy on the heart as it sounds, and Barras manages to wrap things up in under 70 minutes. I’m always a fan of the loving work that goes into stop-motion and this one is no exception – perhaps it is exceptional. The expressive characters and honest story give My Life As A Zucchini a sensitivity, like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. I’m very taken by this and am heartened to see animation tackling such complex characters so deftly. Definitely worth a watch, tissues at the ready.

SXSW: The Hero

Writer-director Brett Haley made a great little film called I’ll See You In My Dreams. It starred Blythe Danner as a woman coming to terms with widowhood and a new chapter in her still full life. It was a surprisingly mature film from a young film maker, and it has spawned another one. In I’ll See You In My Dreams, Haley cast Sam Elliott as a love interest for Danner, but it was Haley who fell in love. He so enjoyed the experience of working with Sam and his enchanting mustache that he wrote a movie just for him. That movie is called The Hero.

Sam Elliott plays an actor, a guy who used to be a big western star, back when westerns MV5BNjA3OTI2NDc3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDU4NDE5MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1776,1000_AL_were big. Nowadays he’s lucky to get work schilling BBQ sauce. Bad news about his health forces him to put his life into perspective. So does receiving a ‘lifetime achievement’ award at a time when his lifetime is feeling quite finite. He has a tangled relationship with his daughter (Krysten Ritter) and a complicated, budding relationship with a woman roughly his daughter’s age (Laura Prepon). Just about the only person he can talk to is a former costar\current drug dealer (Nick Offerman) who has a pretty relaxed attitude about everything.

The Hero has a languid pace, reminiscent of Sam Elliott himself. The film is introspective, beautifully shot, contemplative, fulsome. This was a must-watch for me because of a playful, giggly Nick Offerman, and he doesn’t disappoint, but he’s a secondary character, as everyone is, to macho Lee Hayden, cowboy in his golden years, not quite ready to ride off into that sunset.

The good news is this is not just another weepy cancer drama. Despite some flaws and heavy-handedness, if you keep your focus on where the film intends, that is, on Sam himself, you won’t be disappointed. This role is Elliott adulation. It gives him the time and space to savour the spotlight all by himself, to feel its warmth, to get applause. His performance earns it and warrants it all the way. Lee Hayden is not a hero, he only played one in the movies. In his personal life he’s a bit of a failure, but he does get one hero thing right: it’s never too late.


The Founder

the-founder-movie-2016-trailer-michael-keatonI suppose it was to be expected that Ray Kroc, the “founder” of McDonald’s, was an asshole. But, wow, was he ever an asshole. He died well before this movie was made but it seems he would have agreed with that assessment and been fine with it since it got him where he wanted to be – it made him rich, eventually.

But not without some struggles. You see, he didn’t “create” McDonald’s until he was 52 years old, and the reason for the quotation marks is because he didn’t actually create it. But as we know, history is written by the victors, and that’s Ray Kroc.

Michael Keaton is extremely good as Kroc. Good to the point that he makes Kroc seem like almost a decent guy even though he’d take your last McNugget whether or not he was hungry. The great Nick Offerman and the familiar John Carroll Lynch are excellent as well as Kroc’s former partners, the McDonald brothers. Other familiar faces will pop up for a scene or two, but this movie is mainly about Kroc and the McDonalds.

The Founder’s story is an interesting and engaging one from start to finish. It skips around noticably at parts and I felt a bit disconnected from the movie as a result, but the core tale remained crisp, clear, and entertaining throughout, to the point that the lawyer side of me wanted to yell at the screen as one particularly bad decision was made.

So bring your notepad and find out how an empire can be built from practically nothing on someone else’s idea, as long as you don’t mind being an asshole about it. The Founder gets a score of seven “fries with that” out of ten.

TIFF: Sing

What do Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, and Matthew McConaughey all have in common? They’ve all got pipes. And  boy do they use them in the new animated movie, Sing.

Picture this: a cute and cuddly koala, fuzzy in all the right places, adorably attired in a bowtie and sounding an awful lot like Matthew McConaughey. His name is Buster and his theatre is his passion. It is not, however, much of a sing-animation-movie-wallpaper-02living. The theatre’s bankrupt. He hasn’t had a successful show in – well, maybe ever. The bank’s about to swoop in and take it from him, so in a last ditch effort to save it, he plans a singing competition.

Because his secretary is a bit of a dunce, the $1000 prize is advertised as much more, so people desperate for money as well as those desperate for fame all show up to auditions. From a talented pool he selects a chosen few: Ash, a punk porcupine with a penchant for writing her own tunes (Johansson); Johnny, a gentle gorilla trying to escape his dad’s gang (Taron Egerton); 300773_m1455639411Gunther, a flamboyant dancing pig (Nick Kroll) partnered with Rosita, a shy momma pig with a big voice (Reese Witherspoon); an arrogant crooner of a mouse (Seth McFarlane); and a timid teenaged elephant with stage fright (Tori Kelly).

We saw an “unfinished” version at TIFF, as a sneak peak, but to my eye Garth Jennings’s oeuvre looked pretty near polished. The truth is this film is generic and formulaic. The animation is nothing to write home about. But the songs are catchy as hell, and the talent backs it up. It’s fun. It’s fluff but it’s fun. Your kids will like it. And you may resist, but your toes will be tapping too. It’s that kind of infectious.

Hotel Transylvania 2

hotelphoneI’ll take Phoning It In for 500, Alex.

We’ve been spoiled by Pixar into thinking that animated films aren’t just for kids anymore but Adam Sandler wants to remind you that, indeed, some of them are.

Hotel Transylvania 2 isn’t offensive, it’s just a throwback to that old style animation where a cartoon is just a babysitter for the kiddos. It’s full of monsters so colourful and appealing they could advertise sugary breakfast cereal. The movie relies on sight gags and corny jokes that just don’t cut it for the over-10 crowd.

hoteltDracula is back, the proprietor of a high-end hotel catering exclusively to monster guests. His daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) has just married her human sweetheart Jonathan (Adam Samberg) and they’ve got a sweet little baby boy, the apple of Dracula’s eye. The only thing is, nobody knows yet whether the baby will turn out to be vampire or human. There’s a slight allegory here, something about “mixed families” but it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff.

Sandler brings along all his old buddies to flesh-out the awesome voice cast: SNL alums, Chris Parnell, David Spade, Molly Shannon, Dana Carvey, Chris Hotel-Transylvania-2-Monsters-Frank-Wayne-Griffin-MurrayKattan, and Jon Lovitz; Sandler mainstays Kevin James, Steve Buscemi,  Nick Swardson, and Allen Covert; and a rather inspired addition – Mel Brooks as Vlad, grumpy great-grandpa who doesn’t approve of vampire-human relations. My favourite of course, are Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly, who together voice Jonathan’s super-square parents who get thrown into a crash-course in monsterdom when their son introduces them to vampiric in-laws and a “half-blood” grandson.

hotelOfferman and Mullaly are a real-life couple who met while doing a play. He was a lowly carpenter, and she was a TV star still in the throes of her Will & Grace fame. Over the course of their relationship, she’s seen his star rise as well due to a similarly iconic role on Parks & Recreation. We Assholes were lucky enough to catch them doing another play togetannapurnaher, this time on Broadway, called Annapurna. It was a simple, 2-person play, deeply intense and emotional, and a real joy to watch two master thespians up close and personal. It’s clear that they love working together, even if it’s on a shitty kids’ movie.

Well, I’m saying shitty because I was bored by it. But the producers of Hotel Transylvania don’t care what I think. They didn’t make it for me. And if you hoteltrannsask a kid, chances are they loved it. The sequel was a veritable monster at the box office, if you’ll forgive the pun, setting records as the biggest September opening, the biggest Sandler opening, and the biggest for Sony Pictures Animation as well. It grossed $469 million worldwide, and it just beat out Inside Out at the Kids’ Choice Awards this weekend. So hell yes there’s a #3 coming down the pipes.

Bottom line: if you run out of Paw Patrol, this movie will make a nice substitute for your single-digit-aged kids. If you hope for more than just fart jokes in your animated movies, maybe Zootopia is your better choice – though I’m not guaranteeing it’s fart-free….in fact, I distinctly remember a certain “play on words” if you can still call it that when the word in question is duty.

In a World…

Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) makes a living (more or less) doing voice work and teaching celebrities to perfect their accents. She’d like to break into her father’s business doing voice-over work for movie trailers, but the industry doesn’t want a female voice. But a huge gap has been left by the death of Don LaFontaine (the real-life king of voice-overs) so she finds herself competing against her childish and jealous father, an industry giant, who champions his smug protegé, up-and-comer Gustav, to revive the “In a world…” work.

This film does a lot of things well, but I really enjoyed watching a woman try to break into a male-dominated industry, and witnessing the different things that need to fall into place in order for it to happen.  Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of back-stabbing and sabotage that goes on as well, some of it by Carol’s own father, a man who believes that there is no place for women in his workplace (and that things were better off when there weren’t women in any workplace, period). world

But this is not some heavy drama about sexism. I mean, first of all, there’s Eva Longoria, as herself, learning how not to sound like “a retarded pirate” (this is her attempt at a Cockney accent). Longoria seems pleasantly game and wins some major not-taking-herself-too-seriously points. Then there’s this: (are you sitting down? you may want to sit down.) DEMITRI MARTIN and NICK OFFERMAN in the same movie. In the same scene! In the same several scenes! I nearly fainted from the awesomeness. They play the good dudes who actually believe in Carol and want to help her succeed.

This movie is Lake Bell’s baby – she wrote it and directed it. She casts this movie like it is her baby, like she knows she has to get everything perfect, and does. She surrounds herself with talent and milks it for every ounce, but she’s no slouch: listen carefully and you’ll hear her own voice-over work sprinkled throughout the film. Girl’s got chops. The script is a lot of fun, there’s a lot of great lines, and great opportunities to showcase herself from every angle.

Watch out for Lake Bell – she’s been popping up in random places over the past few years, but with this effort, she’s truly made herself known.