Irrational Man – Woody Allen

Irrational Man starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, and Parker Posey.

While not quite up to par in terms of his recent works (Magic in the Moonlight, the Oscar-winning Blue Jasmine, and Midnight in Paris) Woody Allen‘s Irrational Man still manages to be moderately amusing and light in a way that only fans of the Director/Writer will appreciate. This movie in particular will not likely appeal to as many people as Woody Allen’s other films of the last decade. Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role as Abe Lucas, the disillusioned alcoholic and mopey philosophy professor, and Emma Stone as Jill, the philosophy student inexplicably drawn to him, Irrational Man follows their friendship and Abe’s odd journey to finding a reason to keep living.

Prior to discovering his purpose in life, Abe was living a drunken existence without meaning (or sex). He was once an accomplished writer, philosopher, and philanthropist but lost his way when he realized he would never be able to bring real change to the world.  When he starts to focus on changing the world for one person, his outlook immediately changes and he begins an elaborate plan to execute the good deed. While he sees his tasks as completely rational, from the outside world it is completely the opposite, hence the name of the film. The concepts in Irrational Man are both light and dark, which is typical of a Woody Allen film

The film is just over an hour and a half, which makes it a quick watch by today’s standards. It didn’t “drag on” and while the ending may leave you a bit stunned (but not entirely disappointed), Irrational Man doesn’t leave you with any lingering feelings towards it, good or bad. It’s not likely to be a film you will watch again, but it’s also not something that will make you angry for wasting your precious time.

Irrational Man originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 and saw a wider release in August 2015. The majority of the box office totals ($27M) came from the foreign market

Watch the official trailer here:

 

 

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The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos

The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly,Ben Whishaw, and Rachel Weisz Photo Credit: Despina Spyrou/A24

The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly,Ben Whishaw, and Rachel Weisz
Photo Credit: Despina Spyrou/A24

In the eyes of movie critics, The Lobster is a marvel, it’s both hilarious and thought-provoking; to the average movie-goer who is unacquainted with the strangeness of film festival movies, The Lobster can be summed up with one word: weird. Depending on your preference when it comes to movies, this can be either good or bad. In a dystopian state, Colin Farrell plays David, a man trying to find a mate within 45 days lest he be turned into the animal of his choosing – in this case, a lobster. The movie is just as strange as it sounds and the only saving grace is that the premise and the characters are so odd and so serious, that you can’t help but laugh at the peculiarity of it all. The Lobster is both a drama and a dark comedy. All lines are delivered dead-pan (there is no such thing as a smirk or a smile) and the supporting cast of John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, and Ben Whishaw help to propel the film toward its even stranger second-half.

While it didn’t win the Palme D’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival (the highest prize awarded at the festival), it did win the third-most prestigious prize, the Jury Prize. Unfortunately, this puts The Lobster in the company of films the average person has never even heard of. Historically, only a small number of films that do well at prestigious film festivals such as the ones in Cannes and Toronto  become Oscar contenders with wide theatre audiences and big box office numbers. The Lobster isn’t likely to be one of those given a wide release, but it may get some love come awards season, given the interesting performance by Colin Farrell. Forty pounds heavier and sporting a thick moustache and generic haircut, Colin Farrell is impressive as the defeated, droopy, un-charismatic David.

A movie like The Lobster can only really be recommended to those who appreciate two hours of really dark humour, artistic camerawork, and a uniquely strange plot.  The style is not unlike Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom), but in this case it is even less mainstream and the comedy in The Lobster isn’t exactly “obvious”. Those who truly “get it” will likely find it to be a brilliant, witty, and unconventional satire unlike any other.

Whether The Lobster is just a quirky film with quirky characters or a deeper, social commentary on the pressures of being single and the ludicrousness of applying rules and systems where they do not belong, is entirely up to the viewer. One thing is for certain, though, you’ve never seen anything like it.

The Lobster can now be rented or purchased through Apple.

Watch the official trailer here:

The Nice Guys – Shane Black

The Nice Guys starring Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice.

The Nice Guys starring Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

The humour is clever – but not too clever – the violence is plentiful, and both are hilariously random. The Nice Guys centers around an unlikely pairing, a sleazy private investigator Holland March  (Ryan Gosling) and an independent enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), who work together to find a young woman at the centre of some convoluted plot. It’s a buddy film where the buddies don’t really get along, which makes sense when you consider the other films written by the writer-director Shane Black: the Lethal Weapon movies and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. You may also remember the sharp dialogue between Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and the young boy (Ty Simpkins, who happens to be in the opening scene) in Iron Man 3 – which was arguably the best part of the film – well, that was also Shane Black.

Ryan Gosling can do tragic romance (The Notebook), he can do romantic comedy (Crazy, Stupid, Love), he can do artsy, indie quirkiness (Lars and the Real Girl), he can do serious drama (Half Nelson, Blue Valentine) and now it’s clear that he can do slapstick comedy. He falls, he squeals, he gets drunk, he makes mistake after mistake, and it’s absolutely delightful. His actions most of the time leave his unlikely partner Healy in awe of his stupidity (much like Val Kilmer and Robert Downey, Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Their chemistry, however, is undeniable. To make up for March’s terrible investigative skills and his affinity for booze, his daughter Holly (newcomer, Angourie Rice) is also a prominent feature, working her way into most scenes with the two men. She is a great addition and certainly holds her own on the screen; she’s someone to watch for. Kim Basinger also makes a brief appearance in a supporting role.

The storyline, set in 1977 Los Angeles, is rife with craziness and absurdity; it’s all so ridiculous that it makes you giddy. Not everyone will enjoy this type of loose humour, but those who do will be laughing out loud. It is a completely different breed to action comedies like Deadpool, where the laughs are all gained from quick one-liners and fast talking comedians thinking of new ways to swear (also, grossing close to $800M worldwide…). In The Nice Guys, the jokes are more quirky and less in-your-face; you laugh because you aren’t sure what else to do.

The Nice Guys is rated R in the U.S. and 14:A in Canada for nudity, coarse language, violence, and sexual content. There’s enough of it to make some parents uncomfortable, so (young) family viewing isn’t recommended. The film is just shy of 2 hours, which is a nice change from the summer blockbusters currently in theatres.

The Nice Guys was released in North America on May 20, 2016 and can still be found in theatres.

Watch the official trailer here:

The Big Short – Adam McKay

The Big Short starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.

The Big Short starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.
Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures

Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt. Could you ask for a better cast? If the answer is yes, then add Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo,  Hamish Linklater, and Jeremy Strong and you’ve got The Big Short.  Between six of the lead actors, there are 6 Oscars and 9 Oscar nominations, so it’s not surprising that this movie has already done very well. We’re well into awards season now, and although The Big Short did not walk away a winner, it was nominated for 4 Golden Globes in the two male acting categories, adapted screenplay, and best picture. It still has another chance in late February with its 5 Academy Award nominations (Editing, Screenplay, Actor, Directing, and Best Picture).

This movie takes a very complex topic – the 2008 financial crisis – and attempts to explain it in a way that the average adult can understand. There are so many moving parts and economics isn’t everyone’s strong suit, so it does it’s best (complete with various celebrities trying to dumb it down for us) and mostly succeeds.  Regardless of whether you understand all the intricacies and terminology or not, you’ll still walk away from it feeling sick and cheated – and that’s the whole point.

The movie is centralized around three different groups of men who notice something no one else did – that the U.S housing market was built on a bubble, and that bubble was going to burst. Michael Burry, the one guy who discovered it all is played by Christian Bale. His quick actions sparked the interest of the other teams, who quickly began doing their own investigations. These teams included FrontPoint Partners, lead by Mark Baum (an amazing performance by Steve Carell) and two young guys with a hedge fund start up. They all go about finding a way to make money off of the greed, corruption, and general stupidity of the banks – they bet against the housing market.

The Big Short is filmed in a bit of a quirky way that may annoy you in the first 10 minutes but you’ll quickly get over it and later recognize it for its brilliance. It’s like you’re watching real life unfold in front of you, except you know what’s going to happen. Quick flashes of real images and video serve as a reminder of how things changed so quickly. The script is nothing short of genius and the dialogue is quick-witted and blunt. The fourth wall is broken a number of times, but it works in every case and doesn’t affect the fluidity of the film, in fact, it makes it more real. Steve Carell outshines everyone else and it is likely one of the best performances of his career to date. Unfortunately his performance was not acknowledged by The Academy and Christian Bale was nominated for Best Actor instead. He won’t win, but it’s still a nice nod in his direction. Considering Adam McKay’s previous claims to fame included Anchorman and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the Best Director nomination is a big step in the right direction for him.

It’s definitely worth a watch, but the target audience for this movie is likely 25+… make that 40+ in order to really identify with what the collapse of the U.S. housing market did to the world. The younger generations will find the fast dialogue amusing, the topic informative, and the forecast for the future slightly troubling, but they won’t have the same appreciation for the utter stupidity that ended up costing tons of people their jobs and their life savings.

The Big Short is still playing in some theatres but is mostly gone from the rotation. It still managed to pull in over $100M (worldwide) since its release in December 2015.

Watch the official trailer here:

The Martian – Ridley Scott

The Martian starring Matt Damon.

The Martian starring Matt Damon.
Photo credit: Aidan Monaghan/20th Century Fox

The words “Ridley Scott” and “comedy” are not often seen together in the same sentence, but in the case of The Martian, many reviews have made the exception. Director and Producer Ridley Scott is best known for films such as Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator, and Prometheus – all great movies, but all with little-to-no humour. The Martian is something different altogether and definitely appeals to a much larger audience than the other films.

The Martian was adapted by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, World War Z) from Andy Weir’s book of the same name. With a lot of heavy involvement from NASA as well as other space experts, the science behind The Martian strikes a balance between fiction and fact. Unlike the other movies it has been compared to, namely Interstellar and Gravity, almost everything in the book and the movie is said to be accurate or at least “possible”. The humour from the book was kept alive by Matt Damon, who plays the lead character Mark Watney who is left behind on Mars for a long, long time. With limited food and supplies, he is forced to use his NASA training and botany background to “science the shit” out of everything in order to survive.

The majority of the movie is a one-man show, and Matt Damon is absolutely hilarious. His character uses a video diary to capture his thoughts and document his time on Mars and despite his dire situation, he keeps his spirits up by staying active and seeing the humour in everything that happens. Jeff Daniels, who plays the Director of NASA, is also seen channelling his Newsroom character and is fun to watch. Other actors in supporting roles include: Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, and Michael Peña.

The movie has everything – laughs, tears, action, and edge-of-your-seat sequences that will have you holding your breath. It is a story about science, exploration, adventure, and problem solving and how it can bring people together. The Martian was conveniently released around the same time as the discovery of water on Mars and hopefully it will bring some interest back to NASA and help it become what it used to be in the 60’s – exciting!

The Martian was released on October 2, 2015 and is now playing in theatres everywhere.

Watch the official trailer here:

Trainwreck – Judd Apatow

trainwreck

Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader.
Photo Credits: Mary Cybulski / Universal Pictures

Amy Schumer is the new “it” comedienne, there’s no denying that. After blowing up on the small screen by starring in her own TV show Inside Amy Schumer and finding herself featured on shows like the latest season of The Bachelorette, it was just a matter of time before the big names in Hollywood decided to back her on her own feature length film – Trainwreck. She wrote it, she stars in it, and Judd Apatow directed it. When you mix her flare for breaking down the male/female boundaries and her crude tell-it-like-it-is (not to mention shameless) delivery with his history of directing such funny filth, it certainly seems like a winning combination. It’s hard to say exactly where it went wrong, especially when so many critics and movie-goers raved about it, but a seasoned comedy screenwriter (like Apatow) likely could have made it better. Trainwreck had all the components of a great summer comedy, except and experienced rom-com writer; luckily though, it got away with it for the most part.

Amy Schumer stars as a commitment-opposed magazine columnist who unexpectedly falls for a sports doctor, played by Bill Hader. She’s blunt, funny, the opposite of graceful, and has a soft spot for her father. Amy’s got all the qualities of a stereotypical promiscuous man….but is, in fact, a woman; she just hasn’t found the right guy to settle down with. Therein lies the message that some feminists…. sorry, columnists, took issue with when bashing….sorry, reviewing, the movie. If you aren’t one to care about the underlying messages in romantic comedies or how they affect society’s perception of men and women, then just relax, adjust your blinders, and enjoy the film. That’s what these kinds of movie are for anyway!

The odd thing about Trainwreck is that the funniest actor is actually not an actor (or comedian) at all – it’s LeBron James. It can be very painful to watch athletes attempt to get a laugh from the crowd, especially when they’re playing themselves; however, LeBron is so incredibly believable and funny in his delivery  that you actually find yourself looking forward to scenes with him in them. He’s hands-down the best thing about the movie, which doesn’t say much for the more experienced actors that were supposed to carry the film.

It’s not that Trainwreck was that bad, because so many people found it hilarious, it’s just that it could have been so much better. And finally, as with every Judd Apatow movie, it was about 30 minutes too long. All that being said, it still makes for a good girls night or a date night movie, as long as you’re not easily offended by crude language and awkward sex scenes.

Trainwreck was released in theatres back in July 2015 and will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on November 10, 2015.

Watch the trailer:

Entourage – Doug Ellin

Entourage starring Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, and Kevin Dillon.

Entourage starring Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, and Kevin Dillon.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Fans of the popular HBO show Entourage waited years for the movie to happen, and when it finally did they (along with critics) mostly bashed it or didn’t even bother watching it. After a week or so, Entourage the movie slunk out of theatres, labeled a box office “flop”. The Guardian critic said it best, “Entourage is like an enthusiastic puppy, slightly tipsy on beer, humping on a stripper’s leg, but desperate to please nonetheless”. Feminists will cringe, professional critics will groan, but true fans of the show with low enough expectations will laugh and cherish the 104 minute catch-up session with Vinny, E, Turtle, Drama, and Ari.

Vince is single again and trying his hand at directing, Sloan is pregnant, Drama is (still) unemployed, and Ari is finally trying to relax. That’s just how it starts; the rest is just like an extra, extra long episode. It’s not like people didn’t binge-watch the show to begin with, so the 1 hour and 45 minutes isn’t too much to ask of the audience. Since the writer and director are the same as the show, it doesn’t stray too far in terms of content; you still get your beautiful women, nudity, sex, drugs, alcohol, and ridiculously foul language. Of course, you also get the cameos. Entourage is packed with them (40 plus change, if you’re counting)!  Some actors/athletes/musicians play themselves (Bob Saget, Gary Busey, Liam Neeson, Ronda Rousey, Mark Wahlberg, just to name very few) and some play key characters (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment) but all of them are just along for the ride so the audience can say, “Oh, look, it’s ____!” and to make them feel like they’re getting a tiny glimpse of Hollywood “behind the scenes”. It might get old for some people, but it’s still fun to see.

Entourage is crass, blatant macho-ism, but so was the show. It’s either considered hilarious or incredibly pathetic, there’s nothing really in between. So if you lean more towards the former, give it a chance and laugh away the evening; otherwise, steer clear – you’ll only be disappointed. Finally, if you’ve never seen the show it’s likely that you won’t get a lot of what’s going on since many of the jokes and quick banter have a lot to do with the characters’ past relationships (with the industry and with each other), so it may not be worth it.

Despite not doing so well in theatres, it’ll likely be high on the download, rental, and purchase list for those who didn’t get a chance to see it during its short stint, or those who just want to complete their collections. There are some TV characters you just miss spending an evening with, and these guys are some of them. Unfortunately, given the lack of success, it’ll probably be the last time you see them – so treasure your time together and move on.

Entourage was released in May 2015 and will be available for purchase/rental on September 29, 2015. Available now on Apple TV.

Watch the trailer:

This is Where I Leave You – Shawn Levy

this is where

This is Where I Leave You starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda.

A fairly typical story of a dysfunctional family brought together by a family tragedy, This is Where I Leave You combines quality acting with a mix of giggle-worthy humour and drama. The movie begins with Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) having a really, really bad day when he learns that his wife is cheating on him with his boss and that his father has died. The old man’s dying wish, according to Judd’s mother (the age-defying Jane Fonda), was for the family to “sit shiva” according to Jewish custom. This provides the basis for the big family reunion and the reason for having to spend every day for the next seven days together in the family room. Although the reason for the reunion is religion-based, the family is not at all religious and that is where some of the fun comes in – “Mom, you’re sitting in the exact same spot we put our Christmas tree…”

The family also consists of Judd’s three other siblings and their significant (or insignificant) others: older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn), little brother Phillip (Adam Driver) and his new girlfriend (Connie Britton), and finally his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) and her mostly absent husband. Coming from a relatively small town, there are a number of close family friends who play a part in the madness that ensues, complete with colourful language and themes which aren’t completely family-friendly. Other supporting actors include Timothy Olyphant, Rose Byrne, Ben Schwartz, Dax Shepard, and Abigail Spencer. Shawn Levy as the Director (Real Steel, Night at the Museum, Date Night, The Internship) brings all of these talented actors and comedians together in perfect balance and handles the dysfunctional family clichés well in order to make the movie unique enough for tougher audiences.

This is Where I Leave You isn’t too long (103 minutes) and amidst the giggles, even has a few moments that genuinely tug at the heart strings. The majority of the laughs come, expectantly, from the exchanges between Bateman’s and Fey’s characters, and overall, the family dynamic is pretty believable compared to other family-based dramedies. It isn’t completely unlike The Family Stone in this way. It is a fairly light movie with a good ending that will leave most people happy that they saw it, in genuine awe of Jane Fonda’s overall appearance (the woman is in better shape than most 25 year olds), and maybe wishing they had a larger, funnier family.

Horrible Bosses 2 – Sean Anders

Horrible Bosses 2 starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and Jennifer Aniston.

Horrible Bosses 2 starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and Jennifer Aniston.

There is no denying that Horrible Bosses 2 is a funny movie. You could put Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day in a room with a camera and it would be a funny movie (evidence: bloopers). This one takes a little longer to provide the real laughs, but once they come they keep on rolling through until the end. Charlie Day, as the naïve and sometimes moronic hygienist (Dale) who was sexually abused by his boss in the last movie, and Jason Sudeikis (Kurt) are at the center of most of the comedy while Jason Bateman (Nick) is the grounded one and the only voice of reason in the group.

In the time between Horrible Bosses and this new movieNick, Dale, and Kurt have gone into business for themselves and have a product that they are eager to sell. When a large investor reneges on his promise of a large order, they hatch an elaborate kidnapping plan to come up with enough money to save their business. As expected, the movie gets more and more ridiculous as the storyline progresses but it is still fun to watch, especially when things (predictably) start to go downhill. There are a couple key scenes that are absolutely hilarious but the rest is pretty standard and what we would typically expect from these actors.

The return co-stars are Jennifer Aniston as the sex-addicted dentist, Kevin Spacey as the ex-boss who went to prison at the end of the first movie, and Jamie Foxx as Motherf*cker Jones. Jennifer Aniston, known as the wholesome girl-next-door, once again is so crude and her dialogue is so sexually charged that it is still fun to see her so out of place in the role. Unfortunately Kevin Spacey only has a small role this time around, but he definitely stands out. Newcomers Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz add another dimension to the story and play the two characters who shape the main plot of the movie. The two, however, are not as amusing to watch as Colin Ferrell was in Horrible Bosses. Comparing the two movies, the first one was probably the funnier of the two because of its originality and better characters; but on its own, Horrible Bosses 2 is still a satisfying comedy.

An audience that enjoys colourful profanity, sexual innuendo, quick and ridiculous dialogue, and equally ridiculous situations that wouldn’t be out of place in The Three Stooges, then Horrible Bosses 2 will be a blast. If that sort of light comedy isn’t quite what you’re looking for, then don’t bother, you will only be disappointed.