Tag Archives: road trip movies

Kodachrome

Matt is an A&R guy at a music label but he doesn’t have many As in his R, so he’s on his last legs. It’s a particularly bad time for his dad to be dying, but Ben has never been a thoughtful father, so why start now? Ben’s nurse\assistant insists that the liver cancer is determined to kill him, and Ben’s last wish is that his son drive him to Kansas to have some rolls of film developed. So, in the last days of kodachrome, Matt (Jason Sudeikis) and Ben (Ed Harris) hit the open road in an “analog” car – just a desperate man, his estranged father, and the nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) who judges him for it. Fun times!

kodachrome

I have a real problem with movies about shitty fathers seeking redemption when the timing’s convenient, and I bet you can guess why. Good thing the acting’s real solid, or else my barf mechanisms would have been unforgivably activated. Instead they went for my tear ducts, but they did not succeed. And Bell commercials succeed, for chocolate’s sake! It is NOT that hard. But aside from the Harris-Sudeikis team, this movie was so paint by numbers I’m like 98% certain Bob Ross rolled over in his grave. And I’m only 30% certain he’s dead! [I just Googled it – he is]

Anyway, I sort of thought I’d like this film but never got there. Turns out, I’m not sentimental about obsolete photography or deadbeat dads. It’s the movie version of a guy in a fedora: trying too damn hard. Trying too hard to be a ‘festival favourite’. Instead it’s just a Netflix nonevent with good intentions and zero originality. I haven’t quite reached my word count so doobidy boobidy dunk. Kodachrome’s got no junk in its trunk. The end: a review by Jay.

 

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Last Flag Flying

Doc shows up in his old pal Sal’s bar, unannounced. They haven’t seen each other since they served together in Vietnam. The trio isn’t complete until they pick up Mueller, now a reverend, and only then does Doc confess the true nature of their journey. Doc’s son has just died in Iraq, and they’re on a mission to bring his flag-draped body home.

The kid’s getting a hero’s burial but Doc learns that the circumstances of his son’s death were a little less than heroic – nothing against his kid, just the same tragic junk that the government would prefer to mislabel  – and it’s tearing him apart. So instead of leaving his son’s body in government hands, he resolves to hijack the coffin and he and his buds travel across the country to bring him home.

324633-last-flag-flying-la-derniere-tournee-gagnez-vos-places-2But you may recall that these old guys (Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne) were also marines, and they have their own tragic story that they tiptoe around and unravel slowly. And butting these two wars together, it’s rough; it may be 30 years later, but the senselessness feels eerily similar.

Richard Linklater puts together a really tough movie. It kind of flew under the radar when released so I didn’t have great expectations for Last Flag Flying, but in fact it does a pretty good job handling conflicting themes between grief, friendship, patriotism, service, and sacrifice. While it may suffer somewhat from the shifts in tone from levity to the more somber, it has a really incredible cast that brings warmth and real humanity to what is an otherwise fairly standard script.

Steve Carell: wow. We’ve seen him be extraordinary before, between Foxcatcher and Freeheld and Battle of the Sexes and more besides, there’ more to Carell than just a funny guy. He maneuvers between similar chords and discordant ones like this is some kind of masterclass in acting and fucking Laurence Fishburne has front row seats. And that’s no kind of knock against Carell’s costars, who really make this a tight little dramedy.  Bonding happens during acts of bravery, but also, apparently, in unheroic moments. Men make war, and war makes men. It’s dark, could stand to be darker, but that’s the stuff that works the best, and is deeply moving to watch.

SXSW: Boundaries

Laura is making her therapist proud by making and enforcing some strong, much-needed boundaries with her father. She’s also lying to her therapist about plenty of things, including the actual number of rescue animals currently residing in her home, and in her purse on the floor of the therapist’s office. But Laura’s father Jack is very good at testing boundaries, and right now, he’s a man in need. His retirement residence is kicking him out, and if Laura is unprepared to house him in the home she shares with her teenage son Henry, the least she can do is drive him cross-country to her sister’s home in L.A.. Right?

MV5BMTY5NzMzNTcwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg0MTc3NDM@._V1_Laura (Vera Farmiga) loves her son, and her pets, and against all odds, her father. Her son is a sensitive, gym-hating, naked-picture-drawing type (Lewis MacDougall) who’s just been permanently expelled from school. Her rescued pets are a rag-tag, flea-ridden circus of mange, as pathetic as they are cute. Her dad (Chrisopher Plummer) is a drug dealer and a rapscallion through and through, and terminally charming.

The cast works together as a dysfunctional unit. Director Shana Feste puts together a trio that doesn’t seem like a natural fit but somehow it works – perhaps because they’re all sort of loners in their way, much like the abandoned animals they pick up along the way, and they find a reluctant companionship that turns into some genuine, heartening chemistry onscreen. Toss in a dash of Bobby Cannavale, a splash of Christopher Lloyd (and Christopher Lloyd’s balls, as Farmiga was quick to recall, and not without a blush), and sprinkling of Peter Fonda…my goodness, it’s a bowl of mixed nuts,  more salty than sweet, but it went down mighty well.

I saw this at SXSW when I’d also just seen You Can Choose Your Family, and made me think: good lord, these directors have daddy issues. But I guess all art comes out of some frustration, some need to prove something to someone. But since father issues are nearly universal, I suppose these films feel at once familiar but also just removed enough that we can laugh at them, enjoy a moment of catharsis because someone else has it just a little tougher than you. Collectively the audience will laugh, and will emit a sigh of relief for having survived this awkward family trip.

 

 

 

Thanks for keeping up with our frantic SXSW coverage. We’re posting so frequently you may have missed Sean’s great review of The Director and The Jedi, or my review of the truly astonishing Blindspotting, or Matt’s review of the documentary From All Corners.

The Sweet Life

Chris Messina plays Kenny, the world’s saddest ice cream peddler. He mopes around Chicago in his stupid black bowtie, eventually ending up on a bridge that’s perfect for throwing oneself off of. EXCEPT the bridge is a little crowded: Lolita (Abigail Spencer) is also there, and she’s feeling kind of territorial about her favourite suicide spot. But before you know it, they’re bonding over their mutual depression and the crappy therapist they have in common. They don’t call their respective suicides off, but they do decide that no death is complete without one last road trip – and aren’t the bridges in San Francisco that much nicer for hosting one’s imminent death?

The-Sweet-Life-trailer-700x300.pngSo off they drive in a stolen Mercedes. They have a cross-country adventure that only two people determined to die could possibly have: madcap, in a non-urgent way.  The script doesn’t feel compelled to follow the usual formula for a road trip movie, so it’s sprinkled with surprising pit stops and hijinks. Kenny and Lolita have nothing to lose, so anything is possible.

I usually find Chris Messina quite charming, but he’s dialed way down in The Sweet Life, playing a man longing to die. It sounds quite grim but actually Messina and Spencer manage to keep things fairly light most of the time, though I’m not sure that’s a compliment. The actors are talented enough to try to convey more than the script itself allows, but the truth is, the movie treats mental illness pretty flippantly, as if suicidal ideation is just a means to a meet-cute. It also sort of implies that their mental health problems are directly attributable to one specific person, and confronting that one person should cure them for good — right?

If you aren’t too concerned about the movie’s messaging about mental health, it’s a quirky little indie dramedy that’s a great character exercise for two fearless actors. Their struggle to connect feels real, the emotional dissonance sometimes a challenge, but The Sweet Life is not as hopeless as it sounds.

 

 

Mr. Pig

Ambrose’s farm is failing. He and his daughter are estranged. He doesn’t have anywhere else to be, so he and his friend Howard take a road trip down to Mexico. We get some solid, buddy-road-trip stuff out of Ambrose and Howard: questionable roadside food cards, cold beers, 000070-26554-16618_mrpig_still1_dannyglover__bydamingarca_-_h_2016reminiscences. It’s only a little wonky that Howard is Ambrose’s prized pig.

Howard is the last of a hallowed pig lineage, and Ambrose (Danny Glover) is making this illegal road trip to drop him off where he’ll be treasured and treated right, with the son of his old partner. It doesn’t hurt that the son is willing to pay what only Ambrose thinks Howard is worth. But when the incredibly porcine duo arrive, Ambrose finds his old partner’s farm to be thoroughly modernized, and that’s no compliment. It’s a factory farm that treats live animals like end products, so of course Ambrose balks. The deal is off: he and Howard hit the road once again.

This is when Ambrose’s very concerned daughter Eunice (Maya Rudolph) appears on the scene, but she cannot simply drive Ambrose and Howard back home because US customs just won’t allow it (well duh, they make you throw out orange slices for the love of god). So now it’s a father-mr-pig-moviedaughter-hog road trip movie, only there won’t be any touching redemption in this minivan. Ambrose just isn’t the type.

Mr. Pig wallows. It’s slow going. Diego Luna directs, and he’s got a fine eye for the beauty of Mexico, I’ll give him that. We see a side of it that we don’t usually glimpse in movies, the less cliched part of Mexico. The character study, however, is extremely low key. Too low key, you might be forgiven for thinking. Both Glover and Rudolph do their damnedest, but there’s just not enough bacon to go around.

 

Beyond The Grave

Beyond the Grace (Portos dos Mortos) is a post-apocalyptic indie sensation out of Brazil, where it successfully made the rounds of film festivals. It’s about a police officer looking for a serial killer, more or less. The catch: life is governed by magic and madness in this new reality. The serial killer is possessed. The cop is fueled by vengeance. This is not a tale of good vs. evil, but rather, the bad vs. the very bad.

The cop picks up a couple of teenagers on his travels – a risky thing to do, he knows. But they too are searching for someone who did them wrong. The cop isn’t much of a talker but luckily the boy can provide both sides of any conversation. And the bonus: the cop has a gun without bullets, and the kid has a lone bullet.

beyondgrave6a_zps0481e190During their road trip they pass what look like zombies to me, but low-budget zombies you’d see trick-or-treating at your house come Halloween. It’s hard to embrace horror when the effects are too cumbersome to be scary. There are some genuinely interesting visuals here, most of them blood-soaked, but it’s not enough to make up a frustrating act in story-telling. The quiet serves the story well though, the audience learning much of what we know from a constantly cracking radio rather than any character.

I was a little upset, and by a little upset I mean and I was REALLY FUCKING UPSET when a zombie pulled out a gun. I mean, doesn’t that violate everything we know about zombies? And how do the zombies have guns when the cop’s is useless? I know I just mentioned two paragraphs ago that this post-apocalyptic world is governed by magic, I just didn’t expect the ‘magic’ to be ‘stupidity.’ My mistake.

So I lost interest in the movie quickly after this, especially when some super cheesy music was played over a montage where the teenagers learn to shoot a gun…that has no bullets.

So this movie is probably only to be enjoyed by those who really love zombie flicks – foreign, subtitled, low-budget, fantasy, road-tripping zombie movies with a western twist. Which I can’t say that I am.

 

 

The Fundamentals of Caring

I am having trouble sorting out my feelings for this movie: on the one hand, it’s plump with clichés like an overcooked wiener in a bun of unsubtlety. But that’s no ordinary mustard on this hot dog; it’s the fancy hand-pumped kind I got “on tap” from Maille in Paris, a beautiful mustard with Chablis and black truffles.

Okay, I took that metaphor too far. My point is (and I do have one): this movie the-fundamentals-of-caringhits a LOT of “road trip” clichés coupled with a lot of “my disabled buddy” clichés. And it has Selena Gomez. But it’s still offbeat and oddly charming and yes, this wiener won me over.

Ben (Paul Rudd) is a downtrodden man completing his training in caregiving, where the motto is, “Care, but not too much.” And that’s his plan. This is just a job. But he winds up working for an 18 year old young man named Trevor (Craig Roberts) with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. A progressive loss of muscle function means that Trevor’s in a wheel chair with limited use of his arms. The disease has NOT touched Trevor’s razor wit, his mean sense of humour, or his nasty predilection for pranks. This isn’t going to be an easy babysitting job after all – especially when the two hit the open road with a specially-equipped van full of drugs and life-sustaining equipment. Oh the fun they’ll have literally risking Trevor’s life to see some lousy American road side attractions.

Paul Rudd is the fancy mustard. I adore him. 60% of the time, I love him every time. I mean, let’s be serious for a moment. Is therefundamentalsofcaring-roberts-rudd-bovine-770x470 a single person on the planet who doesn’t love him? He might just be the most universally beloved actor that America has ever or will ever produce. He’s adorable. He’s still playing adorable and he’s middle aged!

Writer-director Rob Burnett manages to find a few new nuggets among the usual disability tropes. He’s not afraid of dark humour, but this movie still manages to be fairly lightweight. And I have to give him mad props for finding a way to use a Leonard Cohen song. I could hardly believe my little ears; they turned pink in utter delight.

This is the perfect little movie to accompany a glass of sangria at the end of a summer night – easy watching for easy sipping. Hot dogs are never easy eating for me but I rate this movie 4 gourmet all-beef wieners out of 5. It’s on Netflix right now.

Hello, My Name is Frank

Laura’s Mom just died and before her death, she promised her mother that she’d definitely DEFINITELY not miss the road trip with her friends the summer before college. There’s just one little hitch: Frank.

Laura’s mother was Frank’s caregiver. Frank has Tourette’s. Some might say severe Tourette’s, both physical and verbal. He’s also reclusive and withdrawn in his spare time. As you 563769162_640can imagine, replacing Frank’s caregiver proves to be a Challenge with a capital C. Super awkward solution: bring foul-mouthed, 59 year old Frank on a road trip with a trio of recent high school grads. It’s the perfect plan to allow Laura to continue to suppress her grief, undermine Frank’s independence, and completely ruin what was supposed to be a fun and carefree vacation. Everyone’s thrilled.

Garrett M. Brown is Frank, and he manages to do that rare thing where he reflects the humour in the situation without disrespecting the disease or the person who has it. Frank is a very real person and we constantly see beyond his disease until we eventually don’t see it at all.

The movie has the support of the Tourette Association of America who stated “We are proud to support projects such as Hello, My Name Is Frank. This film portrays Frank as an authentic, relatable character and helps the audience see the human being behind the Tourette.” That’s a pretty important endorsement but you and I both know that any movie, no matter how noble, must also be watchable. Does this one pass the test? This Asshole says yes. It’s an indie film with frankshot-gilrs-grave-helmet800blockbuster-caliber acting. Brown deserves props but the young actresses (Rachel DiPillo, Hayley Kiyoko, Mary Kate Wiles) surprisingly don’t suck. Does that sound cynical? Well, I am. So when I come across fresh talent that actually IS talent, I’m chuffed. First-time feature director Dale Peterson is a little heavy-handed at times but otherwise keeps the actors’ chemistry in focus and lets the movie do its thing. And for a little icing on this cupcake of a film: the soundtrack is solid. Really solid.

Road Trip Movies

TMP

Wanderer’s timing has been spooky lately. The Assholes fly out to sunny California today and will be taking a road trip of our own on Sunday along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Perfect time to be thinking of our favourite road trip movies.

thelma and louise

Thelma and Louise (1991)– A road trip to a friend’s cabin in the mountains quickly goes off the rails for Thelma and Louise when Louise shoots an attempted rapist to death before they’ve even reached their destination. The trip goes from vacation to nightmare to something much more as the two realize they wouldn’t go back to their old lives even if they could. Nothing like the life of a fugitive to make you finally feel free.

sideways

Sideways (2004)– I made a deal with myself that I would only pick one Alexander Payne movie this week. As much as I love his last four movies- all road trip movies- Sideways was an easy decision, given that we will be doing a Napa Valley wine tour of our own tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll have more fun than Miles (Paul Giamatti), a depressed alcoholic and failed novelist. Sideways is a hopeful but often painful comedy that to this day still makes me feel a little guilty every time I order Merlot.

Due date

Due Date (2010)– Director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis’s follow-up to 2009’s The Hangover was highly anticipated and very disappointing to many but I have always stood by it. Galifianakis’ Ethan Tremblay and Robert Downey Jr.’s Peter Highman are forced to drive cross-country together after they’re both improbably kicked off an airplane. Both stars play off of each other beautifully and the gags mostly work but what I love is how the story is constructed around what’s going on in the lives of these two men instead of around a bunch of setpieces and jokes. Downey is particularly good as his performance hints at a more real pain than he has been able to manage even in his recent “dramas” like The Judge.

The Trip to Italy

This is really neither movie nor documentary. It’s just two guys, two friends, obviously, who happen to be a little bit famous, taking a road trip, eating some food, and cracking some jokes.

The first one, The Trip, features the pair (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) driving all over England Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in Camogli, Italyand chatting about their excellent dinners while trying to one-up each other with impersonations (the Michael Caine is a personal favourite). In The Trip to Italy, the same is attempted, but this time the food is completely forgotten. Some of the film takes places incidentally in restaurants, and there are a couple of obligatory kitchen shots, but not a single dish is named, and none are commented upon other than perhaps a raised eyebrow if something is particularly good. So if you’re looking for recommendations, look elsewhere.

I love Steve Coogan. I could listen to him carry on literally all day long. I don’t know his parter in crime as well; I think Brydon is primarily known on the other side of the pond. However, it is important to note that they are playing “lightly fictionalized” versions of themselves. I don’t stevecooganknow why, and I don’t care for the device. If you don’t want to incorporate your genuine personal lives, then don’t. Brydon’s Hugh Grant impression is much better than his I’m-having-an-affair impresion. Coogan pretends to bring along his fake son (same fake son for the first one, so at least the continuity’s there) but I’m not sure to what end. These two are comedic talents of the first-rate. They can sit and improvise and entertain each other (and us) like nobody’s business. They riff off each other enormously well, and it reminds me so much of great dinners with my own friends, the whole thing just dissolving into something absurd. Coogan pretends to be an egoist with a superiority complex, and Brydon this time is less the stool and more ambitious for his own self.

There are some prepared bits as well (though there’s no credit for a script) – Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album Jagged Little Pill is apparently the only CD in their Mini convertible, and when they’re not singing along in earnest, they’re coming up with new, improved lyrics for her most famous songs.

I don’t think it’s likely to be just anyone’s cuppa, but I like these films. The Trip to Italy doesn’t quite manage to recapture the magic (but don’t worry, there’s more MIchael Caine) and I did miss actual commentary on the food – because wasn’t that the “fictionalized” point? At any rate, they make with the funny, and they make funny well. And maybe that’s point enough.