PSH Blogathon: This is the fun part, sweetheart

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I would like to first give a shout-out to my friend Jordan of the one and only Epileptic Moondancer for providing me the perfect platform from which I can profess my infatuation with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and his role in Jan de Bont’s exhilarating, special effects-driven Twister. I have been looking for another avenue to venture down when it comes to talking about his simply charming performance in that film, one of the very first few I got to see in theaters. I have Jordan to thank for that.

Born: July 23, 1967

[Character actor]

Role: Supporting

Character:  Dustin ‘Dusty’ Davis

Twister operates under the assumption the viewers are, if not nearly as, then equally infatuated with extreme weather as its central protagonists. It bounces around from one corn belt locale to another in the height of one of the most active tornadic seasons in American history in the summer of 1996. Conveniently frequent encounters with this uniquely violent weather phenomenon ensure Twister rarely has down time. But if there were ever a person, a character who could compete for our attention, by virtue of their own charisma, with the ethereal beauty of cylindrical clouds connecting sky to earth, it would be Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Dusty.

Garbed in loose-fitting clothes, tattered and torn by his own enthusiasm for storm chasing, Dusty is Jo’s team’s identifiable loose cannon. He sports a long and ragged crop of dirty blonde hair kept mostly under control by his hat-hood combination, road-weary eyes hiding behind a pair of aviators (presumably this is the best kind of eye protection when driving down roads presided over by ominous castles built out of accumulating wall clouds). If Bill Paxton’s Bill Harding successfully sucked a lot of the fun out of the chase — and you can bet he did with that temper of his — Dusty was the anti-vaccuum, essentially vomiting gusto for the next opportunity to seek out what Tornado Alley has to offer.

Twister isn’t known for its character development and yet the film is rich with characterization. Bill’s a hothead who has been branded as ‘the craziest son of a bitch in the game,’ while Helen Hunt’s Jo is a stubborn woman whose toughness has been forged out of the tragic weather-related loss of her father at an early age; there’s Beltzer and Rabbit — unremarkable in their own rights but highly energetic contributors to a young team who are gung-ho on making a technical break-through when it comes to predicting and rescuing people from this extreme weather. Similar to his on-screen colleagues Dusty doesn’t undergo change so much as he endures one of the craziest seasons of storm chasing of his career. It’s his pairing with Bill’s new fiancée Melissa (Jami Gertz) that tends to bring out his wilder side, where we get to zero in on this peculiar extension of this team.

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Dusty’s all too eager to introduce the sex therapist to the world of meteorology and storm chasing, providing a handful of scenes in which his enthusiasm far exceeds any slight burgeoning interest Melissa musters for her would-be husband’s former career. “This is the fun part, sweetheart,” Dusty tells her as Bill and Jo go gallivanting off in the red truck towards a purported F-3 tornado, the third iteration of the Dorothy weather tracking instrument in tow. An eye roll from Jami Gertz is the actress’ way of defending against a smile from breaking out on her face. She knows as well as anyone Hoffman is intensely infectious in this movie.

Combined with his pseudo-hippie converted school bus — affectionately nicknamed the Barn Burner, complete with loudspeakers and an atrocious paint job — Dusty is arguably Twister‘s soul and spirit. (He’s the guy I most closely associate with the adrenaline of Van Halen’s ‘Humans Being,’ anyway.) The visual effects are clearly the centerpiece of de Bont’s film, with each tornado ramping up the action spectacle and becoming a character unto itself based upon the ease with which it converts towns into splinters, bridges into dust, corn fields into particles of lovely yellow shit. Not to mention the psychological impacts it has upon the chase team(s): “I’m sorry Jo, I don’t even know if you want to hear this but the NSSL is predicting an F-5.”

But we ought to move beyond the obviousness of Twister‘s visuals. There’s no denying that without Hoffman’s eccentric work here, Twister would be all the worse off for it. It’s one character in a multitude that proves the actor’s dedication to the work assigned to him. It’s something lovers of film and lovers of this film specifically shouldn’t take for granted. The energy is so very specific, yet unfortunately comes at quite an expensive price.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 113 mins.

Quoted: “Repo Man spends his life getting into intense situations, Beltzer!”

“Meg’s gravy is famous. It’s practically a food group.”

“He strolls up to the twister, and he says, ‘Have a drink.’ And he chucks the bottle into the twister, and it never hits the ground.”

“He’s gonna rue the day he came up against The Extreme, baby. Bill, I’m talkin’ imminent rueage.”

“Fashionably late again, eh Jonas? Fashionably late. Gimme a kiss baby!”


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Photo credits: http://www.emgn.com 

Ant-Man

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Release: Friday, July 17, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Edgar Wright; Joe Cornish; Adam McKay; Paul Rudd

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Well, it’s official. After watching this, stepping on ants for me is a thing of the past. Stepping on ants is murder.

If someone were to ask me what would be the strangest superhero for Marvel Studios to base a movie around, Ant-man would be the last thing I would have suggested. Then again, I’m likely not the best person to ask such a question, as my ignorance when it comes to everything comic book-related borders on embarrassing. Until it was announced last year that they were casting the role of Scott Lang/Ant-man, I had no idea that this was actually a thing.

When Paul Rudd was confirmed, suddenly I became antsy to see it. (Do we need to start tallying all of these awful puns?)

Edgar Wright’s . . . er, sorry, Peyton Reed’s Ant-man, the final film in the MCU’s Phase Two, is ultimately a successful new addition because the star of the film — a high-tech suit designed by former S.H.I.E.L.D. member Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) — represents one of the riskier propositions Marvel has had to sell relative newcomers to the superhero genre in some time. Let’s be honest, for every Marvel geek in attendance there is likely to be at least three who aren’t quite as attuned.

Everyone of course will continue basking in the glory of the Avengers’ camaraderie, pondering the likelihood of another stand-alone Hulk movie, eagerly anticipating the return of Chris Pratt’s Starlord. The popularity contest was won even before Tony Stark came on the scene in 2008. Basing a film around a piece of tech that can shrink a man to the size of an insect, enabling him to gain strength in the process, well   . . . that’s a difficult pitch. Similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, obscurity actually works in Ant-man‘s favor.

Unlike Guardians, Ant-man isn’t quite as dynamic or willing to take risks with its principals. That’s mostly because the main character itself is riskier than Gamora and Groot put together. (His name is Ant-man for Pete’s sake.) Neither film has a particularly inventive story to offer — it’s either save the galaxy or save the world from villains who equal one another in their villainous ineptitude. The former, however, did have spectacular visual effects and a cast of characters that remain vivid today. Conversely, Ant-man isn’t so interested in characters as it is in the environment, taking a magnifying glass to the mundanity that surrounds us in our everyday lives. Bathtubs, briefcases, children’s rooms and playsets become wild, vast expanses that play host to all sorts of adventure and exhilaration.

Déjà vu: Ant-man is an origin story. It operates, somewhat uninspired, as a redemption arc for a con-man wanting to do right by his young daughter. Despite the fact he has an electrical engineering background, Scott Lang has made a life out of cat burglary, robbing people without using violence. As such he has lost privileges with his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter, after having served one too many prison sentences. When “one last robbery” leads Scott to discover a kind of jumpsuit in the heavily-protected cellar of an eccentric old man, he is faced with the opportunity to save more than just his reputation as an absentee dad and husband. Old habits die even harder when they are vital to the plot.

A sinister development within Pym Technologies sees Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Hank’s former protégé, on the brink of harnessing the same power he had discovered, and has plans on unleashing it upon the world. Reed, whose previous directing credits are a little more than questionable, doesn’t rely on groundbreaking storytelling techniques, epic action setpieces nor particularly memorable performances to effect a highly entertaining, mischievous little outing that completely ignores its once-disastrous potential. Ants are hardly anyone’s favorite creature (sorry if they are yours) but in his film, ants become the good guys. I feel like that’s a feat in and of itself. We even get an education on their various classifications.

So, no. No I’m not stepping on any more ants. Even if this film had potential to become slightly more explosive I personally got a lot out of this exercise, other than realizing Paul Rudd can pretty much do anything he wants. Ants aren’t soulless, they aren’t the harbingers of ruined picnics I once thought them to be. Sure, they might be pests who always seem to find a way into your house but the next time I see a string of soldier ants strutting their stuff from one hole in the wall to the other, it might be best to assume they are reporting for duty.

Recommendation: Ant-man works as a genuinely entertaining (and genuinely harmless) bit of sci-fi action, though it will exist on the fringe in terms of Marvel’s most memorable outings. Its best attributes come in the form of a reliable Paul Rudd and some impressive visual effects which end up doing much of the film’s heavy lifting as the story shifts between points of view. Even if this character has eluded you until now, you should check it out and see what all the ant-icipation was about.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 117 mins.

Quoted: “It’s very rare you get invited back to the same place you robbed from.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Trainwreck

Release: Friday, July 17, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Amy Schumer

Directed by: Judd Apatow

So I’m wondering if it’s some weird coincidence I’m listening to some softcore R&B while trying to decide whether Trainwreck‘s sappy or touching. There were some parts in this movie that were less than . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I’m sorry, but this song is really damn good!

#guessthesong #winaprize

I genuinely should not be admitting to this, in the same way I shouldn’t fess up to going to see the flick on my own. (Le weep . . . ) But here I am, apologizing for nothing. Except for maybe leaving my phone number on the screen with the rapidly dissipating hope that maybe Amy Schumer would magically be in attendance, read it and then call me! Realistically, I’d be apologizing for my vandalizing the theater screen with desperation Sharpie.

Amy prefers one-night stands to having a boyfriend, to the point where she becomes uncomfortable when some hunk begs to stay the night. ‘Nope, out — out with you!’ But that’s before her editor at a gossip magazine (Tilda Swinton, yet again unrecognizable) sends her on an assignment to scoop up the dirt on Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), a sports doctor. A meet-awkward turns into a proper first date, then a second and a third and a . . .

In spite of herself Amy starts having feelings for Dr. Connors, and before long she’s introducing him to Kim as well as earning the attention of LeBron James, a client and good friend of his. LeBron makes it clear Amy should be taking this relationship seriously, for Aaron is a good dude who needs not for his heart to be broken like a basketball player‘s ankles. In his feature film debut, LeBron is a minor revelation, becoming far less distracting than other superstar athletes who have come before. Shumer’s script certainly helps, but The King can actually act. Same applies for 12-time WWE Heavyweight Champion John Cena, who takes pleasure in spoofing his ridiculous physique as Amy’s sort-of fling, Steven. (Let’s not mention New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, though.)

By design an off-putting, self-centered character, it speaks to Schumer’s talent that Amy, in all but one or two scenes, comes across as a thoroughly likable and empathetic twenty-something. Though her refusal to settle down with someone is clearly symptomatic of deep-seated insecurities. Since childhood Amy and her sister Kim (Brie Larson) have operated under the assumption that monogamy isn’t realistic. That was dad’s point of view, anyway. But kids grow up and the siblings take different roads — Kim, who was never really close with her father, takes the one more frequently traveled by having a family while Amy takes her dad’s words to heart.

If the buzz in a packed Thursday evening screening was any indication, Trainwreck is going to go down as Judd Apatow’s most fervently discussed film. The crème de la crème of cinema focusing on the casual encounter; his magnum opus of the minor comedy — minor, being a relative term. Like many of his productions Trainwreck is concerned with central characters — typically awkward adults — who become victims of and are desperate to escape their own personal arrested development. Amy happens to be a very strong example of the typical Apatowian character. As with tradition, the story remains slight but this time the film’s thematic aspirations — the necessity of personal commitment and its associated trepidation — feel more sincere and even more wholesome.

If there’s one thing more apparent than the brilliance of the lead performances, it’s how superior Trainwreck is to Apatow’s last effort, the middling middle-age dramedy we’ve already forgotten about, This is 40. Comparisons are often meaningless, particularly in a genre that’s as immune to consensus opinion as comedy, but if we are considering the two films in terms of the wealth and consistency of well-crafted jokes, then Apatow and his movie-making mojo have returned with a vengeance three years after an apparent hiatus from all the hilarity (and yes, the occasional sappy scene).

Recommendation: This free-spirited ride may address a certain text-messaging generation more eagerly than it tries to embrace a larger audience but Apatow’s style has never been for everyone anyway. For those who identify with Apatow Productions, the latest offering is absolutely not one to miss. Schumer and a fun, often surprising cast pull out all of the stops in Trainwreck.

Rated: R

Running Time: 125 mins.

Quoted: “My boy got intimate, sexual intercourse! Ohhhh!” 

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

JCR Factor #4

July, along with sweltering temperatures, brings you the fourth edition of the John C. Reilly Factor — Thomas J’s latest character study. To find more related material, visit the Features menu up top and search the sub-menu Actor Profiles.

I’m not sure if anyone has ever rated JCR’s sexiness on a scale of 1 – anything. Does anyone actually think about this actor in that way? No? Okay. We’ll just continue, and pretend I didn’t introduce this next performance in that way. . .

John C. Reilly as Reed Rothchild in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights

Role Type: Supporting

Genre: Drama

Character Profile: An adult film actor, failed poet/writer and aspiring magician, Reed Rothchild is like many a young and wide-eyed Los Angelino waiting for their break into show biz. While always on the lookout for a better gig he is, for the time being, satisfied with his contributions to famed adult film director Jack Horner’s colorful filmography. When a new actor arrives on the scene in the form of Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler, initial tensions eventually give way to a lasting friendship that sees both young bucks jettisoning to the fore of America’s most recognizable adult film stars. Unfortunately it is a career path that proves to be just as (if not more) dangerous as it is alluring.

If you lose JCR, the film loses: Reed Rothchild — nothing more, nothing less. As much as John C. Reilly has presence in Boogie Nights, someone else with similar comedic timing and style could fill in for him and the role wouldn’t significantly change. The real strength of this film comes from its storytelling — the overarching journey of the lead(s) from the ’70s party scene and into the comparatively more gloomy and financially less secure ’80s. Reilly gets kind of swept up in the grandioseness of yet another PTA masterpiece. While his character is fun to watch interact with newcomer Dirk Diggler, Reed doesn’t have a big enough part in this film to evoke significant emotions. Count on Reilly to give a great performance but in a film crammed with mesmerizing performances he feels ever so slightly more expendable than usual.

That’s what he said: “You know, people tell me I kind of look like Han Solo.”

Rate the Performance (relative to his other work): 


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Photo credits: http://www.rowthree.com 

Everly

Release: Friday, February 27, 2015

[Redbox]

Written by: Yale Hannon

Directed by: Joe Lynch

There’s an unshakable sense Joe Lynch and company didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity they had with Salma Hayek playing the lead in this economical, often comically violent home invasion thriller.

Despite having a strong presence Hayek is relegated to the role of Donkey Kong: all she must do is survive an incoming wave of bad guys and, barring something just completely off-the-wall in the script, she’ll be home free. Er, in a manner of speaking. She’s actually home the entire time, as Everly rarely leaves the confines of an upscale loft apartment, and when it does it saunters out into the hallway for a few long seconds just to see if the coast is clear. But it rarely is, and Everly is certainly not free.

If it’s not giving the film too much credit, Everly seems to harp on the idea of freedom more than its bloody special effects. On a small scale, Everly wants needs to be free of the physical and mental anguish brought on by her psychotic ex-boyfriend Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe). That her family winds up getting in the middle of several attacks (albeit on the back of some extremely foolish decisions) is surely reason enough for Everly to break free of her dark, dangerous past. Ironic that Lynch’s film can’t break free from the mould of the typical brainless action outing. Everly’s background is as unknown as the environment outside this building. And if there is freedom to be found it exists only in the physical: some way of escaping this hell-hole.

Everly’s ability to defend herself, while more often than not entertaining, makes her a thorough enigma if we are in fact meant to be rooting for her. Given the waves upon waves of attackers, each one seemingly more violent and depraved than the last, we want to assume Everly’s done something worse than cheat on poor Taiko; surely no degree of infidelity would justify this kind of a response. While the various intrusions mark Everly a prisoner in her own home her natural ability to quickly solve each recurrence of that very problem necessarily redirects a spotlight back upon her past. Alas, we don’t ever fully get to understand Everly.

As she exists in this version of the film — the final product, sadly — Everly is neither person nor prisoner. She’s a heavily-tattooed survivalist with no last name. Her current predicament, no more complicated than that classic video game. The controls are basically run, shoot/throw things, duck and hide. Despite Hayek’s faintly detectable humanity — even though, ew, she’s a hooker and shame on her for not being around for her young daughter — she doesn’t get to leave the stinging impression that the physicality of her performance wants her to. Drama is far more obsessed with getting even, an eye-for-an-eye when at least one of those eyes should be focused on the details. Like, why we should care about any of this.

While it’s good to see a female spin on this steadily-growing subgenre of action films popularized by Liam Neeson and his brand of vengeance-seeking, Everly overcompensates for its casting, eventuating in a grotesquely violent shocker that will be remembered less for Hayek’s energy than it will be for the blood stains it leaves behind.

“Say ‘Hola’ to my little friend!!!”

Recommendation: For those desensitized to brutal action, Everly delivers a lot of the good/red stuff. It’s suitably a short-lived home invasion and the experience packs in enough disturbing events to satisfy those sorts of fans but it’s a problem having someone as talented as Hayek in a role so poorly developed. She’s too mysterious to embrace but nowhere near sadistic to be rejected. Sad to say Everly is one to watch less for the character/actress than the crafty little kills she’s responsible for throughout.

Rated: R

Running Time: 92 mins.

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Self/less

Release: Friday, July 10, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Àlex and David Pastor

Directed by: Tarsem Singh

A talented cast can’t save Self/less from selfishly wasting its potential on a narrative utterly disinterested in entertaining.

Ben Kingsley is Damian Hale, a billionaire with an atrocious accent slowly succumbing to cancer. He knows of a super-duper top-secret experiment where people (presumably only those within his tax bracket) can transfer their consciousnesses into a younger body, a body that’s been harvested in a lab controlled by an organization so damn secretive we never get to know its name. What we do know is it’s headed by Mr. Albright (Matthew Goode), a businessman whose stylish facade can’t quite conceal his dubious intentions. The reincarnation-like process is called ‘shedding,’ and for some reason Kingsley sheds into Ryan Reynolds.

You read me right.

Kingsley says to hell with wrinkles, then takes over Reynolds’ body! Armed with youthful looks, a more muscular physique and the alias Edward, “younger Damian” can now do what his previous career-oriented self never allowed him to, which at first amounts to little more than having sex with a different woman every night. Good call. Nothing screams you’re making up for lost time more than having a string of one-night stands with drunk strangers.

He eventually moves past this phase when his consciousness realizes the body he’s now occupying may be something more than the ‘vessel’ it has been marketed to him as. Even though it has “that new body smell,” Edward/younger Damian has been instructed to take one red pill every day to prevent nasty hallucinations from taking over — visions of a life perhaps experienced by the last person trapped in this skin. He’s warned the visions will only increase in severity the longer he abstains from the pills.

Self/less, if it’s not clear already, is one bizarre trip into the psyche. This is Jekyll and Hyde Meet Dubious Medical Ethics, the science behind which we’re clearly not meant to understand. Reynolds is handed the unenviable task of affecting two different personalities sharing the same physical frame. He is more convincing eliciting Kingsley’s guilt of having undergone the procedure than he is selling us on the fact his other consciousness, someone named Mark, is starting to intrude as a result of Edward/younger Damian not taking his pills.

Still with me? Fantastic. If not join the club; there’s plenty of room for new members. (If we’re being totally honest here, I’m barely making sense to myself in an effort to avoid going into spoilers.)

Any ambition the filmmakers had of giving us something worth debating after the fact is stifled by a navel-gazing narrative, one that doesn’t do itself any favors by focusing upon a character that creates far more questions than it answers. Is all of this aimless wandering supposed to be character building? Why the obvious middle finger to Ben Kingsley? Big picture: does Self/less have something to say about medical experimentation — stem cell research, perhaps? Is this about cherishing one’s youth, the sanctity of human life, or simply how good it must feel waking up and knowing you are Ryan Reynolds?

Nothing is ever made clear, except maybe the fact that nothing is going to be made clear. Screenwriting brothers David and Àlex Pastor become obsessed with overcomplicating this Edward/young Damian/Mark dude than giving him a truly compelling direction to head in. A direction other than going back to cap the guy responsible for all of this mess. (But wait, wasn’t Edamianmark the one who wanted this done so he could . . . oh, whatever. I give up.) And it’s quite frustrating, given yet another good turn from Reynolds. As much as he tries to convey two different people he’s no match for a boring screenplay and convoluted storytelling.

The further I drifted from Self/less‘s pivotal scene a few minutes in, the less its rumination on mortality seemed to matter and the more the film’s tagline instead became relevant. Man may have created immortality, but Singh created a pretty bad movie.

Recommendation: A science fiction film where logic and entertainment disappear and are replaced by silly science and endlessly confusing exposition. In a genre where logic is typically given a pretty long leash, Self/less stretches it pretty far. If you enjoy being left out of the loop fairly early in a movie, and then struggling for the rest of the time to find a way back in, then I have the perfect movie for you.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 116 mins.

Quoted: “I’m the only one standing between you and oblivion.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Overnight

Release: Friday, June 19, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Patrick Brice

Directed by: Patrick Brice

This one time, at Jason Schwartzman’s house . . .

No, but seriously. This is no band-camp experience; this is a movie about adults having a sleepover. Wait, that sounds even weirder. Schwartzman’s Kurt is hosting. Well, he and his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) are and they want to do everything they can to ensure all guests enjoy themselves. The occasion? Welcoming some new friends to the neighborhood.

Recently relocated couple Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) have been having a hard time finding their crowd in suburban Los Angeles. One afternoon they happen upon Kurt when his son Max and Alex and Emily’s son R.J. become fast friends at a local playground. Kurt is empathetic to the newcomers’ situation and invites them over for dinner and drinks and even offers to help them find ways to branch out in their community. Though a little strange, Kurt seems like a genuine person so the couple accept.

Given its often surprising direction, a title like The Overnight winds up being sufficiently vague, even if there’s barely enough material to justify a full-length feature. Running a scant 80 minutes, young writer-director Patrick Brice’s new film begins as an innocent play-date amongst four thirtysomethings with children. However, it’s after the children have gone to sleep where we really start to reap the benefits of a rather nondescript title: while we stay within the luxurious confines of Kurt and Charlotte’s beautiful, bohemian abode we dive into another world marked by a perverse subversion of social etiquette and/or the complete absence of personal boundaries. After the children have gone to sleep, things get weird.

On the surface, The Overnight asks of whatever small audience it is going to find what lengths would we go to in order to make new friends in a strange city? Where would we draw the line at a party hosted by people we have only known a day or so? Said party involves the usual — drugs and alcohol (of course) — but what if, for the sake of our supposed enjoyment, it took a turn for the surreal? Do we draw the line before or after skinny dipping has been suggested?

Digging beneath that surface, Brice’s sex comedy won’t exactly inspire the most profound conversation, but it goes deeper than just a raunchy sketch. An intimate portrayal of two long-time couples seeking — accidentally or not (certainly not without some cringe-inducing moments) — sexual gratification, The Overnight could inspire some pillow-talk. Finding ways to spice up a couple’s romantic life doesn’t necessarily lend itself to dinner conversation, but that’s why Brice has the kids put to bed and has created a suitably dynamic environment in which such a discussion can take place naturally. Or as naturally as possible with these people involved. Needless to say the affairs become pretty personal; the opening scene has become a great barometer for the party environment into which we step.

Brice’s sophomore effort feels more like a series of personal confessions of people we know caught on film than a comedy performed by seasoned actors. It’s a precariously slight production, liable to be forgotten all too soon. Still, a very game cast help make this series of escalating, bizarre scenarios more pleasurable than it has any right to be.

Recommendation: Suffice it to say this won’t be the most substantial film you’ll see this year — it’ll likely finish second if you manage to limit your movie watching to just two all year — but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s worth a look if you’re a fan of the kinds of shenanigans Adam Scott seems to find himself in a lot. In fact the entire cast is really likable and the situations, though they get weird, are pretty fun to see get played out. The Overnight would probably function better as a short film or even a series of shorts, but as a sex comedy, it finds minor success. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 79 mins.

Quoted: “I feel like I just gave birth to myself.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.timeout.com 

Ted 2

Release: Friday, June 26, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Seth MacFarlane; Alec Sulkin; Wellesley Wild

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane

Ted 2 turns out to be ridiculous, which in itself is ridiculous. . .because it’s ridiculous to think the first was ridiculous enough to justify something ridiculous like a sequel.

Everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed stuffed teddy is growing up in the follow-up to Seth MacFarlane’s surprisingly successful debut about a child who wishes for his favorite cuddly toy to one day come to life. Now Ted’s getting married to his bear-boo, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) — who barely gets to show any, boo!

As predictable as an episode of Family Guy, a conflict materializes out of rather contrived circumstances, where we see their relationship falling on emotional hard times only shortly after nuptials were made official. Desperate to make Tami-Lynn happy again, Ted suggests they have a child, reasoning that if they learned to love a kid they might remember how to love each other again. Of course the epiphany has probably come right on the heels of what may presumably have been Ted’s fifth or sixth Bud Light. Still, it’s . . . it’s whatever. It works, leave it alone and let’s move on.

When finding sperm donors proves to be more of an issue than the couple expect, they turn to adoption as their last resort. Sadly it’s a move that brings the crushing blow of reality down upon them when their applications draw attention from the state government. Ted and Tami-Lynn’s marriage becomes annulled when officials declare Ted isn’t human, rather just a piece of property. He then finds himself enlisting the help of his thunder-buddy-for-life John (Mark Wahlberg) in his quest to prove both his status as a human being and a citizen of Boston, and that his marriage should be recognized as legal. It may not be a voice many are expecting to hear, but MacFarlane does contribute something to the conversation surrounding marriage equality and it’s welcomed.

What the film lacks in MacFarlane’s signature, perfectly choreographed musical interludes it makes up for with a surprisingly sensitive story. Suffice it to say, there have been far worse comedy sequels before; MacFarlane could have also chosen to build upon his western comedy concept. He shows restraint by not going that route. Not that this film is going to go down as a particularly memorable comedy. MacFarlane still can’t help but sketch outlines of supporting characters who do nothing more than function as signposts, convenient for when you inevitably get lost in this meandering little tale. Amanda Seyfried, while likable enough, seems to be twiddling her thumbs with her throw-away role of a pot-smoking attorney. Morgan Freeman is all but wasted as a more reputable civil rights attorney they all hope will help them after failing to get the courts to rule in favor of Ted and Tami-Lynn in the first of several courtroom scenes.

Beyond failing to justify such big names in such insignificant roles MacFarlane struggles to shape all the events into a cohesive whole. Although it feels slightly less episodic than the last outing, and certainly less so than A Million Ways to Die in the West, this narrative does its fair share of aimless wandering as Ted and John befriend Seyfried’s Samantha Jackson. As their legal representative she has the appearance of being book-smart, but then she smokes a ton of weed in her office so she’s obviously not too street smart. Do we need a 10-minute scene to get that point across, though? Freeman gets to have his moments (hearing him deliver the line “After I’m finished fucking myself. . .” is for some reason very satisfying), even if they, too, contribute far more to a bloated running time than to this campaign for emotional resonance. Indeed, the first time we even meet Freeman’s character it turns out to be nothing more than a wild goose chase. But hey — more time spent with this adorable teddy bear and his likable Bostonian pothead friend, the better, right?

There’s plenty of time to spend, too. At five minutes shy of two hours Ted 2 runs a risk of overstaying its furry little welcome. There’s this whole other subplot involving Hasbro toys and the company’s evil underbelly — John Carroll Lynch’s money-hungry executive and a creepazoid janitor named Donny, played once again with unbridled enthusiasm by the one and only Giovanni Ribisi. These men are after the teddy bear, determined the court will rule against Ted and declare him property, thereby making it legally safer for Hasbro to abduct the toy and use him in experiments to see if they can recreate his lifelikeness in other bears. It’s up to, who else, the stoner lawyer and her newfound friend John to save the bear from danger and then also get him legally declared a person before the film reel runs out. Ted 2 stuffs a lot in and not all of it works, but on the whole this sequel charms just as much as the stuff(ing) upon which it is based.

Recommendation: I never would have thought I’d be here justifying another round of teddy-bear-related hijinks but here I am doing just that. Ridiculous. On that ground alone, MacFarlane’s third feature film directorial effort should be labeled a success. If you laughed at the first one, you’ll likely have a good time with this, even though it in no way demands to be seen in theaters. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 115 mins.

Quoted: “Did you hear that? You’re covered in rejected black men’s semen. You look like a Kardashian.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Release: Friday, May 8, 2015 (limited)

[Theater]

Written by: Felix Herngren; Hans Ingemansson

Directed by: Felix Herngren

Believe it or not, this ungainly film title actually leaves details out. So does the promotional poster.

Sure, a 100-year-old man does climb out a window. And (spoiler alert) he does disappear . . . well, relative to the perspective held by those we meet at the film’s open. Our geriatric protagonist is Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) and he appears very unhappy in his current state, confined to a tiny room typical of most retirement homes. It’s his birthday, but before the congregation of staff and fellow residents can send him their well-wishes he’s out the window and vanished. And so begins a desperate search that will entail local police and gang members.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared develops mostly through flashbacks, and because it does the title succeeds in misrepresenting the significance of current events. Confusing isn’t the right word, but misleading seems a better fit. The story is far less concerned with the here-and-now as it is in delineating the old man’s life experience. We occasionally resurface in the present tense as Allan makes his way nonchalantly from point A to point B, from B to C and C to D. While each point bears little geographic significance they serve as opportunities for Allan to explain the events in his life that have come to define who he is. Surprisingly there’s much more to him other than his fascination with blowing up everyday objects.

Landmark moments — his castration at the hands of a cruel doctor; his role in J. Robert Oppenheimer (Philip Rosch)’s Manhattan Project and subsequent involvement in the Second Great War, where he befriends Albert Einstein’s “less intelligent twin brother,” Herbert, during his time spent in a Russian gulag; his greater rises to prominence thanks to his shoulder brushings with Vice President Harry Truman (Kerry Shale) — serve as the backbone of this bizarre tale. Played exclusively for laughs, they characterize the whimsical fabric of the narrative while suggesting how miraculous history can sometimes be. The movie never aspires to be profound; it’s far too clumsily comedic to actually be taken seriously, but on occasion it does inspire thoughtful reflection. Relative to Allan’s life, if he never developed an affection for blowing things up, would he necessarily have found himself in the positions he does later in life?

When not busying itself in the affairs of the past, The 100-Year-Old Man depicts an amusing cat-and-mouse game ongoing amongst Swedish police and thugs. The former attempts to link a bizarre murder/kidnapping to the 100-year-old man, while the latter is trying to recover some 50 million (Krona, I presume, even though the currency is never specifically mentioned) that Allan has taken via a comical mix-up at a train station early in the film. The result is a complicated and wildly unlikely misunderstanding leading to the involvement of a British brute (played by the one and only Alan Ford), that, strangely enough, is more satisfying than a good deal of the backstory presented.

Unfortunately the film’s structure loses its novelty fairly quickly. Running nearly two hours in length, the adventure overstays its welcome, dragging in more than one place and indulging in frivolity to the detriment of our diminishing goodwill. More often than not, though, The 100-Year-Old Man serves as delightful entertainment featuring an atypical protagonist. It’s historically inaccurate, harmless fun.

Recommendation: The third-highest grossing Swedish film of all time somehow found its way to Knoxville, Tennessee. If you can get your hands on this little ditty, I recommend you do so. It’s funny, heartwarming and bizarre in equal measure and while it won’t linger in the mind much longer than a couple of days I feel pretty comfortable saying it will be worth your while . . . for those who are fans of things that are just a little bit off of the beaten path, anyway. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 114 mins.

Quoted: “If you want to kill me, you’d better hurry because I’m 100 years old.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Four Years of DSB

dsb 4 bday irony

. . .being a Brit.

Roughly four years ago today I gave birth to DSB. In case you were wondering, yes, it was an immaculate conception. There was no one else who helped make it happen.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but I’m proud of what this has become. I think I might have said this before, but I was surprised I ever returned to this page after I took a year-long hiatus from mid-2011 until March of 2012. I remember having just . . . such an embarrassingly emotional reaction to Todd Phillips’ bacchanalia Project X that I felt the need to go and write my thoughts down. That was a review that makes my recent Jurassic World rant tame by comparison. I’m going to try in the future to not let those emotions get the better of me. I’m sure I have annoyed a few readers in the process of doing that, and I kind of regret it. Sometimes I have this feeling that I do more harm than good by coming on so strongly. That’s why the blog has lost its original slogan: ‘Rants and Raves.’ I want to take the focus off of the negatives and focus more on the positives!

Regardless, I’ve appreciated having this space to vent. I thank WordPress for being such a tool . . . a good one, that is. 😉 You can bet I’ll be signing up for another year with you. Since consistently posting from around early 2013 and onwards, this has become quite the addiction. I love the feeling of getting to write something and then have like-minded people ‘Like’ and leave feedback on my stuff. It’s truly great and that energy is what is helping propel me into the future.

Speaking of which, my next moves are going to be a tad scarier and undoubtedly more expensive. The goal is to relocate to Salt Lake City. Not only is that town a killer place to be for those attracted to the outdoors (as I am) — as well as Mormon fundamentalism (as I am not) — but every January there’s a little film festival that takes place known to some as Sundance. I have loved covering mainstream releases — and there are a lot to be found here — but I would really like to start digging into the world of independent cinema more often. I’d love to have exposure to things that could prove to be harder to access outside of the film festival circuit. So, I’m setting that as a goal for me to achieve within the next two years. I think that’s reasonable. Right . . . ?

Alright I was promising myself I wouldn’t ramble on with this post and here I am doing just that. I shall use the rest of this space to list a few little tidbits and factoids in celebration of the blog’s fourth birthday/anniversary. And is it just me, or does time really fly when you’re having fun blogging. . . ?

cropped-knoxville-downtown-night-lights1

DSB’s original banner image

Four of my Favorite Films I Saw in 2011

  1. Drive – Ryan Gosling, meet Nicolas Winding Refn
  2. Win-Win – first of all, how many people saw this? And second, Paul Giamatti – awesome.
  3. Cedar Rapids – another under-seen and under-appreciated film, this time starring Ed Helms.
  4. Crazy, Stupid, Love – a crazy, not stupid and lovely date film

Four of my Favorite Films I Saw in 2012

  1. The Dark Knight Rises – a near-perfect end to a near-perfect trilogy. Tom Hardy gave me chills
  2. Marvel’s The Avengers – . . .do I really need to qualify this?
  3. Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson’s made a lot of good ones, but this one’s hard to beat
  4. Skyfall – Sam Mendes’ apology for Marc Forster’s indiscretion with the convoluted Quantum of Solace

Four of my Favorite Films I Saw in 2013

  1. The Way, Way Back – so awkward it becomes adorable. I. Love. This. Movie.
  2. Rush – Ron Howard concocts a classic racing film, least in my eyes. And that casting — wow!
  3. Safety Not Guaranteed – an excellent and beyond-quirky little gem starring one of my biggest celebrity crushes, Aubrey Plaza
  4. The Place Beyond the Pines – too quickly forgotten, this sprawling epic proved an acting showcase

Four of my Favorite Films I Saw in 2014

  1. Her – Spike Jonze’ deeply personal and witty commentary on our relationship with technology is one of the most impressive films I’ve ever seen
  2. The Skeleton Twins – pairing Bill Hader with Kristen Wiig in this deeply touching and moving dramedy worked like a charm on me
  3. Godzilla – a refreshingly restrained monster movie in an age where we seem to demand we get all the good stuff up-front without question
  4. Winnebago Man – this docu is amazingly insightful and hilarious. Underrated is how I’d describe it.

Four of my Favorite Films I’ve Seen so far in 2015 

  1. Love & Mercy – achingly nostalgic and filled with spectacular performances, the biopic of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys is a definite winner
  2. What We Do in the Shadows – painfully funny stuff brought to you by one-half of the musicomedy duo Flight of the Conchords
  3. Almost Famous – a classic from the turn of the millennium which I have no excuse for putting off for so long. This is a fantastic film from Cameron Crowe
  4. The Guest – suspenseful, artistic and bloody in equal measure, this is a crazy awesome film that snuck under a lot of people’s radars

Four Films I’m Most Anticipating in 2015

  1. Spectre – I’m excited to see where Sam Mendes can take the gritty James Bond next. Trailers so far hint at the darkest chapter yet.
  2. In the Heart of the Sea – set to the tune of the epic tale of Moby Dick, this film will reunite director Ron Howard with star Chris Hemsworth
  3. The Revenant – with a mind-glowingly awesome cast under the direction of last year’s Oscar Best Picture, I’m really curious to see what this will be like
  4. The Green Inferno – I wouldn’t call myself the biggest Eli Roth fan, but no joke . . . his latest film looks bloody and bloody brilliant. Sign me up.

What are four of your most anticipated this year? What are four of your favorites so far? 

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Four new things about the blog

  1. Expanded menus – I finally figured out how to customize menus in the editing page and now you can access all that DSB has to offer through a variety of drop down menus located above the banner. That only took me four years to figure out lol
  2. The introduction of character studies in the form of 2014’s The Franco Files and 2015’s John C. Reilly Factor. If you’re a fan of these folks, check these pages out!
  3. The DSB Spotlight – this new ‘feature’ represents the first paid contribution to this site and it makes me very proud to be able to feature a fellow movie fan’s writing on here. This is validation that others beyond the blogging community have been reading and accessing what I have to say about movies and it is humbling to say the least. You can check out this article here.
  4. With the help of esteemed blogger and friend Mark Fletcher of the fantastic Three Rows Back, I co-hosted my very first blogathon — The Decades Blogathon — which turned out to be a great experience and led to even more exposure to both film titles and film fans/bloggers alike. This was a great experience, and hopefully not the last for me.

Thank you as always for reading my stuff. It’s an honor and a privilege to still be doing this. Onwards!