Tag Archives: Laura Dern

[Review] – The Master

30 Sep

Title: The Master
Year: 2012
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Jesse Plemons
MPAA Rating: R, sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Runtime: 137 min
IMDb Rating: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic: 85

First of all: you’re going to have to bear with me here, this will probably be one of my long reviews. That’s because, of course, not only is The Master one of the most buzzed about films of the year, but it’s also a film by Paul Thomas Anderson, my favorite director. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may know I love lists, I love quantifying stuff from favorite movies to favorite long-takes, whatever. My list of favorite directors is a revolving door of greats, but for quite some time now I’ve known that, no matter which masters of cinema occupy the spots right below him, Paul Thomas Anderson is the solid number 1 for me.

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[Trailer] – The Master

27 Aug

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: there’s no film this year that even comes close as far as how much I’m anticipating it to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master. With the film nearly two weeks away now (finally!) we’ve gotten the final theatrical trailer for it, which you can watch after the cut.

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[Teaser] – The Master

19 Jun

Nearly a month after that mesmerizing first teaser was released on the day some footage was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, we’re getting another teaser for Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master, which you can watch below.

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[Teaser] – The Master

21 May

The Master has always been my most anticipated film of 2012. After all, Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite director and his last film, the masterpiece that was There Will Be Blood, was released five years ago. Well, now we have a teaser trailer for The Master, and I was dead wrong to think I couldn’t get any more excited for this film. This is truly amazing. Watch the teaser after the cut.

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Everything Must Go

11 Jun

Title: Everything Must Go
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Dan Rush
Writer: Dan Rush, based on the short story by Raymond Carver
Starring: 
Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Michael Peña
MPAA Rating: 
R, language and some sexual content
Runtime: 
97 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
76%

I like seeing actors known best for their comedic work stretching out of their comfort zones to tackle more serious fare. And I like it because some truly stunning performances have resulted from that. Just take a look at Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love (my sixth favorite film of 2002), or Bill Murray in Lost in Translation (my favorite film of all-time), even Steve Carell has also done his bit of dramatic acting in Little Miss Sunshine (my fourth favorite of 2004) and, most impressively, there’s Jim Carrey a man that has given three pretty much perfect performances in dramatic roles in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Man on the Moon and The Truman Show. So yeah, when comedians decide to go serious, great things sometimes happen, and that has also extended to the work of Will Ferrell. We were witnesses of that in 2006 when he did Stranger than Fiction (my eleventh favorite film of that year), and we are witnesses of that all over again now, when he takes the leading role in Everything Must Go, an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story that, while it doesn’t do all that much to improve over its source material, does find a role that it seems Mr. Ferrell was just born to play.

I just thought there was honestly a lot of stuff to like about Everything Must Go. Not only is the performance given by Mr. Ferrell a fantastic one, but there are a trio of sincerely wonderful supporting turns by Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace and Laura Dern. But first, a bit of the story, Mr. Ferrell plays Nick, an Arizona-based salesman who’s about to hit rock bottom as he gets fired from his job and his wife leaves him, freezes his bank account and throws all of his possessions in their front lawn. All of that in one day. Oh, and he’s also battling a case of alcoholism, not in the sense that we’ll get a scene of a misery-stricken Nick in bar shouting and being loud, but in the sense that he just likes to drink, in a sense that he’s just a regular guy but one that has drinking as his number one priority, and that’s the worst kind of alcoholic because that’s the one you actually feel very sorry for, the guy that means well, the guy that doesn’t go on violent fits, the guy that quietly and calmly just drinks his life away.

The short story on which the film is based is a pretty damn good one, and even though I ultimately don’t necessarily think this film did all it could have done to make this a truly successful adaptation, I still think it maintained the essence of that Raymond Carver short story, it’s obviously a much more viewer-friendly approach to the narrative than in the story, but the good stuff is all still very much there, it’s all still very personal and feels like a tough and intimate look at a man’s life crumbling down. And you know Mr. Ferrell is going to rock out a role that requires said stuff from him, because he has that big frame and still manages to look and act like a child at the same time, and because he has the charm to make us connect with the character and care for him, and because, much like he did in Step Brothers (though obviously in a much more serious tone) the guy rocks at playing this sort of child in a man’s body who just failed at living in a man’s world.

So we see Nick, just sitting in a chair in his lawn, with a lamp next to him, trying to act as though everything is normal, trying to hide the fact that he’s in full crisis mode from his neighbors who can now see him do everything as there are no more walls between them. And it’s all pretty good, the problems he faces trying to live in his lawn, getting a rude awakening by the sprinklers bright and early in the morning, showering, and just plain trying to figure out what to do next with his life. But I loved this film the most not because of the situations it put Nick in, but because of the characters it put him with.

One of these characters is Frank, a cop who was also Nick’s sponsor in one of his failed attempts to go through A.A. and who comes to his lawn after the neighbors start complaining about the man living there in plain sight, and who tells him the law allows five days for a yard sale and that’s how much time he has. There’s also Laura Dern delivering a gem of a performance in a small role that has her as Nick’s high school crush who he decides to look up. And then there’s Samantha, a pregnant woman who’s just moving in to the street from a whole other city and who’s husband she is waiting for as he’s to arrive later on. Samantha’s played by Rebecca Hall, who I think is just insanely talented and absolutely beautiful, and Ms. Hall just does her thing with Samantha as she does with all of her roles, making her likable and a soul companion to Nick, it’s just truly fantastic to see the relationship between these two develop.

And then there’s Christopher Jordan Wallace as Kenny. And this is the character I just fell in love with, and the relationship between him and Nick, more than the one between Nick and Samantha, is the best part of this film. And Christopher Jordan Wallace, the fourteen year-old son of the late hip-hop great Notorious B.I.G., is pretty much as perfect for this this role as Mr. Ferrell is as Nick. Kenny is just your typical curious kid, he rides up on his bike in front of Nick’s lawn and asks him the questions everyone wants to ask but only a kid will, and instantly becomes Nick’s business partner in his venture to sell all of his stuff in a yard sale because, as Frank and the movie title told us, everything must go. The movie as whole is pretty laid back really, there is heavy stuff going on but there’s never an urge to really tackle that head-on, and even though some further greatness might have come out of doing that, I’m more than fine with this film not going there, because there are still tremendous performances to watch on display here even without the more emotional load, and Will Ferrell proves once again that funnymen doing serious things can often give us something very special.

Grade: B+

Little Fockers

5 Jan

Title: Little Fockers
Year:
2010
Director:
Paul Weitz
Writers:
John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey, based on the characters by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke
Starring:
Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content
Runtime:
98 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
5.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
10%

 

When Meet the Parents came out in 2000 I fell absolutely in love with the film. I thought it was one of the funniest things I saw in all that year, and showed why Ben Stiller was just so damn good at uncomfortable comedy. And audiences responded alike, the film was a critical success that also did great at the box office, making over $330 million on a $55 million budget.

A sequel was then a given, and so we got Meet the Fockers in 2004, with Jay Roach still directing and the main cast members being joined by newcomers Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand, who played the parents of Mr. Stiller’s character and were simply golden. That film wasn’t nearly as great as Meet the Parents was, but I thought still had a bunch of amusing moments that were worth the price of admission, and at least it still was a commercial success, making over $515 million on an $80 million budget.

So with that sort of commercial success with the franchise I guess a third installment was a given for Universal. And so here we are, six years laters and getting Little Fockers, with Paul Weitz taking over the director’s chair. And if Meet the Fockers was a decline from the first one, then this one’s an even larger decline from the second one. Seriously, this is by far the worst installment in the saga, but then again, it will surely still prove profitable at the box office, it already has made over $130 million with under two weeks in release.

But still, commercial success or not, Little Fockers is a film that, through its entirety, feels horribly unnecessary. All the main players come back, Mr. Hoffman who had initially turned down an offer was even coerced to come back and shoot six scenes to make it funnier (though to little or no avail), and there are a few new faces even, with Jessica Alba, Laura Dern and Harvey Keitel all joining the party. But still, not even this all-star cast could do anything with such uninspired material. A real pity.

I won’t fail Little Fockers, if anything because I thought Meet the Parents was such a masterful comedic work, but this one just degrades the fond memories I have with these characters, and if they go ahead and make a fourth entry in the franchise, then that will seriously be the end of it as far as I’m concerned. This is a film in which the real plot takes a really long time to fully engage us, and the funny bits are few and far between, if ever there.

Here’s the thing, Meet the Parents was far an out a seriously fantastic comedy, probably one of the twenty best released in all of the past decade, and Meet the Fockers still had some really funny moments. And that’s because Ben Stiller is the man in these sort of comedies, in which we get to laugh at his expense, and because Robert De Niro proved to be a very good actor for him to play along with. However, the fact is that now in Little Fockers, instead of the writers thinking some equally good stuff for them to riff off, they got lazy and decided to give the titular kiddies of the film do some of the funny stuff. And funny, it wasn’t.

I guess I’m just a bit bummed that after a sensationally good New Year’s holiday, I come back home and decide to kick off my movie 2011 with this film and the result was so disappointing. We get Jack, Mr. De Niro’s character, coming to terms with the fact that he’s getting older and older, and considering bestowing upon Greg, Mr. Stiller’s character, the honor of becoming the new family patriarch. And that’s really the story, and the funny bits in it suck, because before it was awesome to laugh at the situations Greg was put in, and at how Jack saw him while they happened, now the material they’re given to work with is so much worse, and they’re not even putting that much energy into making anything more out of it.

If you can avoid Little Fockers, I’d advice you to do it. But then again, if you’ve seen the first two, and thought they were quite good, you’ll probably want to see this one, and I understand that because I really did too, no matter how bad anyone said it was. But really, this just feels unnecessary, especially the introduction of Ms. Alba’s character who was the worst part of the film by far (though to be fair Ms. Dern, another newcomer, was also one of the best parts). So yes, go see it if you feel you must, but I doubt you’ll come out thinking that was a well spent hour and a half.

Grade: C-