Tag Archives: Zach Galifianakis

Are You Here

Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis) is a bipolar man-child who dabbles in the consumption and dissemination of weed. His friend, Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), a moderately successful local weather reporter, is outwardly more put together but his womanizing makes for a pretty superficial life. It’s hard to say why these two are still friends, but their shared childhood has clearly bonded them, and when Ben learns his estranged father has died, Steve makes the trip home with him.

There are two problems with waiting for Ben at home: 1. his ambitious, uptight sister Terri (Amy Poehler) and 2. his hippie “step-mom” Angela (Laura Ramsey) who’s the same age they are. Terri and Angela don’t get along and Ben hasn’t seen either of them in quite some time. So yeah, it’s a bit of a problem when the will is read and almost everything, including the family business, is left to him, a known loser and eternal fuck up.

MV5BMTY0OTE2ODg2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjUxMDI0MjE@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_First off, I sort of hate this title. Actually, I definitely hate this title. It’s too vague and it doesn’t mean anything, and without a question mark, it’s a question that doesn’t even ask itself let alone demand an answer.

I don’t know what this movie was really about, and I am confident that writer-director Matthew Weiner doesn’t either. I’m not 100% sure this movie wasn’t accidentally made from 2 or more disparate scripts. It kind of feels like a few rough-draft ideas were quilted into a half-baked script that never should have seen the light of day. And though there are a few good moments, mostly thanks to a talented cast, Are You Here is a forgettable mess. So I guess in that way, the title is actually quite representative of the film – and it should have been enough to warn me the hell away.

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A Wrinkle in Time

This movie came out when I was in Austin, Texas seeing a billion movies at SXSW, and even so, I still considered taking a time out just to see another movie, one that was just hitting theatres. I never made it to A Wrinkle In Time then, but I finally got around to it this weekend, and I wasn’t the only one: our cinema was packed on Easter Monday, and I was pleased to note how many families were in attendance.

For those of you who haven’t read the book (by Madeleine L’Engle), A Wrinkle In Time is about a young girl named Meg – troubled at school, grieving at home. Her parents are both brilliant scientists, or were – her father disappeared years ago while MV5BNzhkYzRlNzUtNzFhNy00MzllLWFkZGEtNDg0ZTE0YTYzOWNjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjk3NTUyOTc@._V1_working on a theory about a tesseract, which would involve “wrinkling” time and space in order to travel through it. One dark and stormy night, a mysterious woman named Mrs. Whatsit appears to tell Meg, her friend Calvin, and Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace, the child genius, that she has heard her father calling out to them through the universe. Turns out, Mrs. Whatsit and her friends Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which are supernatural beings prepared to engage in a rescue mission.

The book was repeatedly rejected – possibly because it was a work of science fiction with a young, female protagonist, and possibly because it asked a lot from its young readers. Not only does it use physics and philosophy as basic concepts, it directly tackles the nature of evil, and pits children against it. The movie, too, follows in its footsteps, embracing what made the novel so special and unique, proudly displaying the magic AND the science, and trusting a young audience to appreciate them both. If anything the movie is a little too ambitious – though I quite enjoyed it, I did, in the end, have the sense that parts of it were quite condensed.

Director Ava du Vernay gets the casting exactly right: Storm Reid as Meg is what we want every 13 year old girl to be – smart and strong and curious and cautious. Her determination in the face of her fear and vulnerability make her an exceedingly compelling character. She may at times be insecure but her love and loyalty toward family see her through difficult times. But of course it’s the larger than life characters that Meg meets that give the story so much colour. The Mrs. Ws are particularly enchanting, and I cannot imagine a more satisfying trio than Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah, large and in charge.

At just under 2 hours, the movie does unfortunately lose some of the detail that MV5BMTU5Njg0NTA0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTgwNDU4NDM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,929_AL_make the book wonderful, but it also paints a fantastic picture that I cannot stop myself from going back to in my mind. The visuals are exotic and beautiful and the world-building just divine. I can only guess at the kind of impression it makes on young imaginations.

Though the movie has some flaws, its themes are just as courageous and necessary today as they were when the book was first published in 1962. Light vs darkness, good triumphing over evil, and the only real weapon used is love. It’s also got a (somewhat diluted) message against conformity; Meg has to embrace her flaws in order to win the day.

See this movie with a child’s wonder and you will be delighted. Adapting this book was always going to be difficult, and the worst thing it does, necessarily, is rob us of the opportunity to do some of the imagining for ourselves. But in committing to the visuals, Ava du Vernay does the source material more than justice. She gives us a film full of hope and bravery, and shows little girls everywhere that they too can be the heroes of their own stories.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

This is a completely unnecessary comedy that I’m feeling kind of forgiving toward because I watched it on a plane. Had I paid money to see it, I’d be spitting nails [What a weird expression. Should I just be squirreling away nails in my cheeks to have handy should some unacceptable circumstances arise?]. But I had some time to kill and only Air Canada’s seat back entertainment system for diversion. I briefly considered counting the rings in my fingernails to determine how old I was. I also flirted briefly with learning the “safety” card by heart, just to impress people with my emergency plane procedure knowledge, but in the end, no, I turned on a movie, mostly to drown out the phlegmatic cough that was going on in front of me, but a little out of curiosity and a certain about of what-the-heckness.

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play a married couple who are very cozy in the little rut they’re in. The kids are away at summer camp but they still can’t figure out what KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESESthey should do differently. And no one’s talking about the big hairy elephant in the room: how does a Grade A hottie like Fisher settle for Zach Galifianakis? It’s not just that he has pervasive neck beard. His character doesn’t make serious bank, he isn’t independently wealthy, and he’s about as charming as a toddler who ate cake for breakfast and is now hearing the word No for the first time. He’s a buffoon. He’s what the word buffoon was invented for. It’s under these questionable circumstances that they meet their new neighbours, the Joneses.

Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm have just moved in next door. Isla Fisher is immediately suspicious of them: why would any suburban married couple still have the hots for each other? They travel the world, they engage in public displays of affection, they dress well and have nice things. The true secret of their success is that they don’t have kids. But since this is the movies, they’re also international spies, which Isla somehow intuits despite the fact that no one else has ever breached their cover in all their years in the field.

The spies are targeting Zach’s work, so of course he gets sucked into an operation that’s well over his head. And that’s not a knock on him; he is NOT a spy, never claimed to be, and it’s kind of unfair that with only an expensive suit for cover, he suddenly has to go head to head with super-baddie Patton Oswalt. Haha, that’s such a ridiculous thing I just said. Zach Galifianakis vs Patton Oswalt: it’s a showdown I wouldn’t mind seeing, just not like this.

In summation: nothing super wrong with the performances. The story’s just flat. There’s no polish. A few laughs, yes, but the simple fact is that keeping up with the Joneses has never been this easy.

 

The Lego Batman Movie

batcaveIt’s hard to believe it was about three years ago that The Lego Movie amazed me with its ability to entertain adults and children alike with the same silly jokes.   Time goes by so quickly!  The Lego Batman Movie is The Lego Movie’s sequel in spirit but is not tied to the first in any way, except that both feature Will Arnett’s Lego Batman, the ridiculous beat-boxing self-absorbed antihero who always succeeds on the “first try”.  Only this time, Batman has to take Michael Cera’s earnest, optimistic Robin along with him on his adventures.robin

The Lego Batman Movie is every bit as good as the Lego Movie, and that’s high praise.  Surprisingly, it is also a remarkably faithful  continuation of, and homage to, the whole Batman cinematic universe, including the silly 1966 Batman Movie starring Adam West.  If you are a Batman fan you need to see this film.  One of my favourite elements was the inclusion of so many forgotten members of Batman’s rogues gallery.  This movie has so many ridiculous villains that you will think many must have been made up, but as far as I can tell, every single silly one has been Batman’s enemy over the last 80 years, and I googled as many as I coulbatman-villainsd remember just as Zach Galifianakis’ Joker suggested.

In addition to the inclusion of so many laughable villains, there are so many other references and in-jokes that it is impossible to catch them all on a single viewing.   One that stood out for me was the inclusion of the Wonder Twins, if only because they are my most hated “superheroes” of all time, and yet I still thought it was awesome they were given a little place in this movie. I can only guess what I missed, though, and want to watch this one again sometime soon (if I can ever find the time!).

The Lego Batman Movie is another sparkling example of a movie that everyone can enjoy, and another that organically incorporates a positive message within its zaniness.   We are in the midst of a golden age for animated films and the Lego Batman Movie is a classic that I will be watching with my nieces and nephews for years to come.  It gets a score of nine cans of Shark-Repellent Bat-spray out of ten.

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Queen Mimi

Director Yaniv Rokah is a barrista\wannabe actor in Santa Monica, where he encounters the woman who lives in the laundromat across the street.

Marie ‘Mimi’ Haist was born in 1925, married young and ‘obeyed’ her domineering husband. After 29 years of marriage she was left with nothing when he preferred his mistress. She was out on the streets in her 50s, homeless, spending her days in a renee-zellweger-062313-kiss-10__optlaundromat until one cold night a kind laundromat owner didn’t kick her out at closing time. She’s been living in Fox Laundry ever since – some 25 years now.

The documentary is pretty low-key about how the laundromat guy, Stan Fox, was really her saviour. Not just for letting her stay, but for knowing her story, and for putting up with her. She’s not exactly a picnic; if she doesn’t like you, you’ll know it. But if you show her kindness, she’s a blast. She doesn’t work for Stan Fox but she does work in the laundromat, undercutting his business and often making more money than the actual employees. She likes nothing better than putting on some tunes and dancing her head off.

She’s 88 years young in the film and dresses like she’s 12. Her face is one of years hard-lived. Her teeth are nonexistent. Her back hunched, perhaps a side effect of sleeping scrunched up in a lawn chair in a laundromat for so long.

You kind of have to watch this film. Queen Mimi is a character, one you’d hardly credit in a movie, and one you have to see in a documentary to believe. She’s got her philosophies, screen-shot-2013-09-24-at-2-05-59-pmher hard-won wisdom, and an outlook that’s totally unique. She’s cantankerous and whimsical and totally intolerant of homeless people (she doesn’t see the irony). And she has a knack for making famous friends: Zach Galifianakis has taken her to movie premieres (he met her while doing his laundry some 18 years ago), Renee Zellweger takes her shopping, and if you promise to keep a secret, Zach’s about to put her up in an apartment all her own. She hasn’t had a home since 1976.

 

 

What a fascinating portrait of a complex human being. We step over homeless people all the time, but everybody has a story, and this is Mimi’s. It’s heartening to see so many people rally around her, wonderful to see that people care. I kind of wish the same for all those lining the sidewalks.

 

Masterminds

Not everyone loved Napoleon Dynamite, but you can’t deny that it was an unprecedented success. Its director, first-timer Jared Hess, hit it out of the park, the movie absorbed into popular culture. He’s been unwilling to accept that he may be a one-hit wonder (same goes for Napoleon star Jon Heder) – the two keep making films at a dwindling rate, each more lavishly terrible than the last.

Jared Hess’s latest failure is called Masterminds, and he convinced a long list of famous names to go down in flames along with him: Zach Galifianakis as la-et-mn-ca-sneaks-masterminds-kate-mckinnon-20150426.jpgthe witless driver of an armoured money truck whose terrible relationship with fiancée Kate McKinnon makes it all too easy for him to fall for coworker Kristen Wiig who manipulates him into working with her confederate, Owen Wilson, who thinks a heist is in order. Galifianakis will do all of the work under the guise of love but will receive little to no reward if Wilson has anything to do with it – he’s got contract killer Jason Sudeikis after him and only the law (Leslie Jones) has any chance of intervening.

It’s “based on a true story” which means that someone once stole money somewhere and that’s excuse enough for this atrocity. With 3\4 of the Ghostbusters assembled, there’s no denying that this is a powerhouse cast, but the trouble is they’ve been given a crumpled up tissue of a story and no one knows in which direction to sneeze. I truthfully confessed to Sean that I zachonly laughed once the entire movie – and it was post-credits, in the blooper reel, not even at a joke that got edited out, but at Zach Galifianakis accidentally hitting his head on a swing set (I console myself that it made Kate McKinnon laugh too, before she checked that he was okay). Only babies laugh at people getting bonked on the head, but I had been in a comedy desert for the past hour and a half and I was parched for laughter.

It’s just shameless and lowbrow and it almost makes you feel bad for the dumb criminals it’s styled after. I have a low tolerance for stupid slapstick and this movie didn’t have a single other trick up its sleeve. Some of the scenes literally feel like an SNL sketch gone on too long, and those are the good ones. I have zero forgiveness in my heart for a movie this bad, and I’ll be expecting some dark chocolate truffles and a bottle of Dom with a heartfelt card signed by all the cast by way of apology soon. But not soon enough.

Las Vegas Chronicles: The Hangover

Today the Assholes are in lovely Las Vegas, so what better movie to discuss than The Hangover? If your brain reaches back to 2009, you may remember that in the original movie, the boys wake up the morning after a wild and crazy bachelor party in Vegas only to discover that their groom is missing.

The boys stay at Caesars Palace during their stay, which wouldn’t be most people’s first choice of accommodation on the strip. It’s an older place, not as glam, and nowadays its claim to fame is hosting Celine Dion’s ongoing concert series, which you wouldn’t think attracts a lot of bacherlor parties, but what do I know? When Sean and I hit up Vegas in 2011, it was already cashing in on The Hangover success with a movie-themed slot machine that was a lot of fun to play (similarly, Sex and the City and The Dark Knight slot machines also took a LOT of our quarters).

The Hangover boys upgrade to a very swanky suite during their stay, one that doesn’t actually exist in real life but is modeled after two of Caesars Palace’s most luxurious suites in its Forum Tower – the Emperor suite penthouse, natch, and the so-called “Rain Man suite” (guess which other movie was filmed there!) that takes up two floors, has 10 TVs including in-mirror bathroom televisions, and will set you back $3500\night.

Mike Tyson appears in one of the best, most random cameos ever written, and this man has a real history with Caesars Palace, it being a popular boxing venue since the 1970s. He has said that he only took the part to further fund his drug habit, and was high on cocaine during his scenes. Mike Tyson does not own a tiger in real life. In real life, he owns 7.

The staff of Caesars Palace will tell you that to this day guests enjoy quoting lines from the movie to them upon check-in, particularly “Did Caesar live here?” and “Do you know if the hotel is pager friendly?” They are beyond tired of hearing it, but if you must, a nice tip helps secure a forced chuckle.

Las Vegas got a bump of tourism thanks to this movie, but it was already a busy place. In fact, Vegas is naturally so debauched that Bradley Cooper walked around with bloody tiger scratches on his neck, and not a single person ever questioned it. He has said that he does not believe Vegas even noticed there was a movie being made.

 

While we’re carousing in Vegas, be sure to follow us on Twitter @assholemovies to get a load of our debauchery!

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.