Tag Archives: Steve Carrell

Despicable Me 3

Nope.

This movie was made to take your money; it does not feel obliged to entertain you in return. The first two films in the franchise felt sweet in their own way, heart-warming in a villainous sort of fashion. But this one just feels incomplete. The movie ended and I felt nothing had really happened. Gru  (voiced by Steve Carrell), our nefarious villain turned secret agent thanks to do-gooder wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), meets his twin brother Dru for the first time (Carrell, again). Dru, though seemingly successful and handsome(er), has always been something of a disappointment bad-guy-wise, and begs his brother to teach him everything he knows. Reluctant to go back to his bad guy ways, Gru instead has them steal the world’s largest diamond back from the evil clutches of Balthazar Bratt, a villain who eluded him at the agency.

nintchdbpict000290313314Bratt is an entertaining character on paper: a washed up 80s TV child star who aged out and resented it until his old shows inspired him to become the very villain he played. Middle aged now, and armed with a mullet, a keytar, and a juicy 80s soundtrack that follows his every move, he pulls of heists with exploding bubble gum and an army of dolls who look just like him.

My nephews, who love the franchise, call this movie Minions 3, which tells you what puts 5 year old butts in the seat. Gru has no need for his minions now that he’s turned straight, but some of their side action lands them in prison, and the movie basically splits in two, one plot following Gru and Dru, and the other following the minions. The movie does just enough to satisfy the kids, but anyone over the age of 8 is out of luck. This is yet another franchise that ran out of steam. There’s no focus, no charm. The only good thing about this movie is Steve Carrell’s voicework. I spent a lot of the movie imagining him in a soundproof booth. It’s not the recitation of dialogue that impresses me, but rather I am intrigued by all the assorted random grunts and noises. He had to sit in his booth, and think, now, if I was about to get impaled butt-first on a poisonous stake, what sort of heavily-accented screech would I let out? And what sort of relieved exhalation would I make if I avoided it? And what sort of self-starting grunt would I make to get back to work? And how out of breath would I get trying to sticky-climb up the side of a lair? These questions fascinated me, and kept me entertained during a movie that was supposed to be doing the entertaining.

But okay, there was a SECOND thing that was rather cute. Gru’s unicorn-loving daughter Agnes is again in unicorn mode, determined to see one in person. A kindred spirit, I happen to be hosting a unicorns & rainbows party on Sunday. Because they’re so fluffy I want to die. But two little bright spots do not a good movie make. Despicable Me 3 was boring. Not so boring I wanted to die but I was certainly conscious that its 90 minute runtime brought me closer to the grave, which is not exactly what you want out of a children’s movie. The end.

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Cafe Society

I wanted to crawl right into the very first frame, so luscious and drenched with colour it was. If I had turned it off right then and there, I may have dreamed in technicolour and sung the film’s praises. I didn’t.

Cafe Society is a beacon of hope to all the men who have been friend-zoned. Stick around for long enough to provide the shoulder to cry on when she eventually breaks up with her boyfriend, who is cooler, more interesting, and more wasp2015_day_21-0031.CR2successful than you, and you might actually find her vulnerable enough to prey on her heartbreak and win. For a while. But since you’re still nerdy old you she’ll eventually wise up and leave your ass, potentially even for the ex who doesn’t deserve her, and you’ll have to content yourself with second place. If second place always looked like Blake Lively you might thank your lucky stars, but Woody Allen is an idiot, so here we are.

Bobby is the Woody-Allen-stand-in in this case, played by Jesse Eisenberg, an inspired choice because he’s already got the annoying neuroticism and concave chest. He’s not content with the similarity though, he goes full-on chanelwa15_d21_00172-h_2016_0impression, right down to the self-conscious body language and flighty hand gestures. Bobby moves to Hollywood, trying to escape the family business. He goes to his uncle Phil (Steve Carrell), an important guy at a big movie studio, who barely makes time for him, and pawns him off on his secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Eisenberg and Stewart have a twitchy chemistry that works well, but it does mean you’ll have to watch the two most high-strung performances in Hollywood today. Simultaneously. In a Woody Allen movie.

Steve Carrell is the best thing about this movie, and he wasn’t supposed to be in it. He replaced Bruce Willis well into filming after Brucie was fired for being a diva and not learning his lines. The costumes are also divine. ‘Cafe society’ was coined to describe the beautiful people hanging out in night clubs, and all those beautiful people are prettily dressed and on sumptuous display. This is Woody Allen’s first digitally captured movie, and his first collaboration with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro – if he’s smart, it’ll be the first of many, because this film is gorgeous if nothing else. And yeah – nothing else. It feels like two different stories stitched inexpertly together (Allen provides the stitching – he narrates the thing, cause he just can’t keep his wrinkly hands OFF). Despite the window dressing, Cafe Society is a love story at its core, but a love story between two people you don’t really care about, and you don’t even like. The end.

The Big Short

If you were one of the many Ron Burgundy fans who felt let down by Anchorman 2, the movie to blame is finally here. Adam McKay, Head Writer at Saturday Night Live during the late 90s and the director of all the most Will Ferrelly of Will Ferrell movies, was not the obvious choice to adapt such a serious book as The Big Short and reportedly only agreed to write a second Anchorman to sweeten the deal.

The Big Short, which I have not read, was written by Michael Lewis and documents the story of the small group of people who foresaw the collapse of the housing market in 2007 and took a giant gamble by betting against the banks. Now, I’ve seen Inside Job, 2010’s Oscar-winning documentary about the financial crisis and I’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street but still manage to get my dividends and my CDIs mixed up. With Inside Job going so far over my head, I couldn’t help but wonder how a writer best known for “Go fuck yourself, San Diego” would handle such potentially confusing material.

It turns out that McKay is the right guy to make a financial crisis movie for someone as financially illiterate as I am. He consistently finds creative ways to pause to explain the trickier concepts, often by breaking the fourth wall with outrageous celebrity cameos of which I wouldn’t dare spoil the surprise. There are enough jokes, often poking fun at the conventions of movies that are “based on a true story”, to hold our attention better than Inside Out or Wolf or Wall Street could hope to without ever abandoning the appropriate level of outrage at how so much greed could cause so much suffering.

How Hollywood could make a movie- a comedy no less- from Lewis’ book wasn’t the only reason to be curious about McKay’s film. It also boasts one of 2015’s most intriguing casts. Brad Pitt, one of The Big Short’s producers, has the smallest role of the four names above the title but stands out for his uncharacteristicallyy understated performance. I didn’t even recognize him in the preview. (I thought he was Peter Dinklage).  I couldn’t help noticing though that casting himself as the one guy who gets that “this is just not right” is becoming a bit of a self-serving habit of his. (See: 12 Years a Slave). Ryan Gosling, last seen in 2013’s Only God Forgives, makes his triumphant return to the big screen. As Jared Vennett, he channels all the handsome-and-he-knows-it smugness that we saw in Crazy Stupid Love and The Ides of March. Come to think of it, he’s versatile enough to have played pretty much any of the major characters so his talents may have been better served with a better part but he plays it well and has some really funny lines.

Christian Bale and Steve Carrell- believe it or not- are competing for the Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical Golden Globe. Bale plays Michael Burry, the brilliant hedge fund manager with Asperger’s who loves to air drum. He’s good but has been better. He plays the eccentric genius a little like he did the eccentric in American Hustle but he has some strong scenes, especially when he starts to let his humility show towards the end. It’s Carrell, though, who steals the show. With the other characters so impressed with their own coolnees or brilliance and so focused on how much money they’re going to make if their gamble pays off, Carrell brings the humanity. He plays money manager Mark Baum, based on Steve Eisman. He’s had it out for the banks ever since his brother lost all his money and jumped off the roof of a highrise. (I’m not sure if that happened to Eisman or not). His shock and anger is palpable in every scene. Because he’s played by Steve Carrell, he’s still funny. But McKay counts on him to remind us that, while laughing at the stupidity and recklessness of Wall Street can be a lot of fun, a lot of real people got hurt.

I’ll be cheering for him on Sunday.

TIFF 2015: Freeheld

freeheld

I was moved- and pissed off- by Freeheld, as I’m sure director Peter Sollett and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner intended and I can only imagine what it must have been like to attend the premiere the night before.

Freeheld tells the true story of veteran police officer Laurel Hester’s battle for the right to pass on her pension benefits to Stacie Andree, her same-sex partner, when she’s diagnosed with lung cancer. Justice doesn’t come easy. Some cops have a big problem with a domestic partner having the same benefits as their wives do and those that don’t are too afraid to speak up. Some freeholders, despite having the legal right to honour her request, refuse on the grounds of their own religious beliefs.

This movie made me mad. “God will be mad” as an excuse for withholding from others what is rightfully theirs, has been getting old for a long time. How gay marraige affects straight people in any way is something I will never understand. Still, the right finds ways to insist that their own rights are being violated. So, yes, I rooted very strongly for these characters and against those who stood in their way and I could tell that Monday’s TIFF audience did too.

Freeheld succeeds admirably as a piece of Preaching to the Choir, even if not necessarily as a piece of cinema. Nyswaner’s script seems carefully designed to beg for as many Oscars as possible, with almost every character being given their Big Speech Oscar moment.

He pretty much gets away with it too. Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, and Steve Carell elevate the lazy writing, nail their speeches, and each bring something special and unique the the project. The outstanding acting and undeniably interesting and important story go a long way in saving this otherwise conventional drama.

Escapism (Or Why I’m Not At Work Right Now)

There’s a heat wave in Ottawa, folks. The humidex says 40 bloody degrees. Is it hot where you are too? Our local art house theatre, the estimable Bytowne on Rideau street, helpfully suggests that their cinema is in fact air-conditioned, and even better, they sell ice cream at their concession stand. So there’s always that.

But today Sean and I are playing heat wave hookie. There’s a water park down the road so we’re slathering on the sunscreen (Sean says: smells like vacation sex!) and hitting the (fake) waves.

Now, one thing to consider when you’re off to the local water park is all those news stories you’ve read about it recently, and in particular, its “dismal safety record.” The good news is: it was only found guilty on 6 of 11 charges, and the 9 others were withdrawn. So that’s not bad, right? I feel like I can beat the 50\50 odds at least half the time.

The truth is, you have to remember that these parks are staffed by the same kids in adventurelandAdventureland. I mean, would you literally trust Jesse Eisenberg or Kristen Stewart with your life? Those two asshats, plus a gang of their ne’ever do well friends, run the games section of a run down amusement park while dreaming of being ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD and having these deep and meaningful conversations while completely ignoring their customers. Have you seen this movie? Did it remind you of any of your own after school jobs? It’s pretty scary when teenagers run the world,

In The Way, Way Back, a kid named Duncan gets hired to work at a water park called Water Wizz, which is an awful name for a park. It reminds you too much of what you’re floating in. I mean, realistically, we know it’s 40% urine. Those kids over there haven’t gone to the washroom WayWayBackONCE since arriving but they’re throwing back juice boxes like it’s happy hour. Water parks probably don’t even HAVE bathroom facilities for kids. Why waste the space? (This reminds of a scene in Grown Ups where Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider are all floating around at a water park, not coincidentally also called Water Wizz since it was filmed in the same park, and suddenly the water around them all 20100614_poolpee_190x190turns dark blue – apparently there’s a chemical that can notify us that someone has peed, and I can’t decide if that’s brilliant or just tmi. The point being: I guess grown ups (if you can really call David Spade a grown up) do it too.) Anyway, back to the movie I meant to be talking about. Duncan seeks refuge at this pissy water park because his mom (Toni Colette) is neglecting him on their summer vacation, and her boyfriend (Steve Carrell) is emotionally abusive toward him. So a pool full of pee starts to seem not so bad.

Me? I happen to like my Mom’s boyfriend, despite his constant cracking of sex jokes, which – hello – are about my Mom. So I’m not fleeing step-parent abuse. But I am avoiding work. And the weird thing about work is, I (and likely lots of you too) have this weird thing about skipping work just to laze around watching Netflix. I mean, that’s what Sundays are for. If you miss work, you need a Reason. See what I did there? Capital R Reason. A good one. Like going out-of-town with my hunny to get an irresponsible sunburn and possibly also athlete’s foot.

Anyway, this was a good movie review, wasn’t it? To recap:

Adventureland: high on nostalgia; has some great supporting characters.

Grown Ups: funny to people who like pee jokes.

The Way, Way Back: quietly charming and sweet and funny.

What’s your favourite summer movie? How are you staying cool? What do you skip work to do?

 

Foxcatcher

In the sprawling Du Pont family home, there is a room referred to as the trophy room. Its walls are lined with ribbons and medals and a bounty of trophies featuring gleaming silver horses. “Horses are stupid” says John Du Pont (Steve Carrell), who prefers wrestling, though his dear, ultra-wealthy mother considers it a “low sport.” It’s funny he has such a disdain for horses since he seems to treat his own pet wrestler no better than a dog.fox

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is an Olympic gold medal winner but has lived his life in the shadow of his older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also an Olympian, and arguably the better wrestler. Mark’s living the unglamorous life of an amateur athlete, surviving on one $20 cheque at a time when Du Pont swoops in to offer him not just sponsorship, but mentorship. Desperate, Mark accepts.

Steve Carrell is nearly unrecognizable as Du Pont, and I don’t mean the prosthetic nose. I mean he walks Du Pont and talks Du Pont and hunches his shoulders and has this stillness and almost emptiness about him that’s kind of chilling and really restrained and very well done. Matt played the Oscar card in his review and I can’t help but agree. Every time he’s on screen, he’s giving out a vibe that makes you uncomfortable but prohibits you from looking away. Du Pont is basically soulless and he attempts to buy himself a biography with cash. He’s got an interest in sports but no qualifications – luckily, as long as you embroider ‘coach’ on your jacket, no one second guesses you when you’ve got millions in the bank. Carrell and Tatum both spend much of the movie in silence, so much so that a coked-up scene on a helicopter where the two repeat polysyllabic words is one of the “funnest” scenes in the movie. For the most part, it’s slow and mumbly and dark, dark, dark.

I actually think Tatum was the perfect choice to play the physically strong but emotionally stunted athlete. He comes alive in the gym, on the mat, but seems subdued and uncomfortable in almost any other setting. We see him as vulnerable and feel that somehow Du Pont has taken advantage of him, even though it’s clear he’s an adult. The movie relies on what’s not said between these two, because Du Pont is socially inept and Schultz is a dull bulb. But wordy or not, I needed something more from this movie. We never know the true nature of the relationship between Du Pont and his protégé. There’s a lot of tension and creepiness and stuff we don’t feel good about, even some erratic behaviour from Du Pont, but nothing that can really explain the drastic event at the end. I mean, what the hell? It’s not fair to spring that on us, you need to earn it, even if we knew all along we were in for some violent end.

The movie works best as a commentary on America and on social inequity than as a true-crime caper. Director Bennett Miller makes his movie as if he’s a journalist, not a story-teller. We are presented with facts; emotions are observed but not delved into. The whole thing is cold. And when shit hits the fan, we knew it was coming, but we still don’t know why.