Tag Archives: Marisa Tomei

[Review] – Parental Guidance

7 Jan

Parental Guidance

Title: Parental Guidance
Year: 2012
Director: Andy Fickman
Writers: Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse
Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott, Bailee Madison
MPAA Rating: PG, some rude humor
Runtime: 104 min
IMDb Rating: 5.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 19%
Metacritic: 37

Parental Guidance is the kind of movie that just shouldn’t really exist. During December when some of the very best films of the year are being released to vie for some awards attention we sometimes get stuff like this, family movies that are just absolutely horrible and that, like is also the case with this one, still manage to make a nice buck. Plus, no disrespect to them, but Billy Crystal and Bette Midler shouldn’t be the headliners of a movie in this decade.

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[Review] – Jeff, Who Lives At Home

11 Apr

Title: Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Year: 2012
Directors: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon, Rae Dawn Chong
MPAA Rating: R, language including sexual references and some drug use
Runtime: 83 min
IMDb Rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Metacritic: 60

By now you may be somewhat familiar with the mumblecore filmmaking movement. Coined about a decade ago, the term is used to describe independent films with a very much DIY filmmaking style with low budget and production values, and a film that’s driven more by characters than by plot points, and one that counts with a very naturalistic approach to both performances and dialogue, which is many times heavily improvised by the cast. Brothers Jay and Mark Duplass are a big part of the movement, with their first feature, The Puffy Chair, being one of the first movies to come out of it, and their follow-up to that one, Baghead, continuing to fall in line with that overall aesthetic.

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Crazy, Stupid, Love.

31 Jan

Title: Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Year: 2011
Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon, Analeigh Tipton, John Carroll Lynch
MPAA Rating: PG-13, coarse humor, sexual content and language
Runtime: 118 min
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Metacritic: 68

 

A whole month after 2011 ended the 2011 movie year ends for me, as Crazy, Stupid, Love. is the last 2011 release I will watch, after this one my rankings close with 256 films released on 2011 having been watched (an improvement over the 210 I saw of 2010). After this I’ll make a few Best of 2011 posts to recap the whole year and then move on with the 2012 reviews and get back to normal. All I know is that 2011 was pretty great for this blog, I started getting a lot of followers, some of them who pitched in with some really nice tips and recommendations, I started a facebook page so that people could get their trailers and reviews in their newsfeed, and the films of the year overall were pretty amazing, but comments about that I’ll leave for those Best of 2011 posts that I talked about. For now, let’s talk about the film at hand, a really terrific film to finish the year on and to cap off the career year Ryan Gosling had.

This seriously is a great film, it has an impeccable cast delivering really strong performances, and it’s just so sweet and funny that you can’t help but fall head over heels with it, it’s actually one of the better films of the whole year. Not to mention that, unlike most romantic comedies, this one actually gets better as it goes along and doesn’t churn out all of its best material at the start of it; something that can be attributed, surely, to this one being an actually adult romantic comedy, with an actual story and an actual heart, and people all across the board doing their best to make this material work, and boy do they succeed.

As I said 2011 was the year of Ryan Gosling, or at the very least one he shares with Michael Fassbender and Jessica Chastain, what with performances in a trio of seriously incredible films with this one, Drive (an A+ and the fourth best film of the year for me) as well as The Ides of March (an A and the eighteenth best film of the year). In this one Mr. Gosling plays Jacob Palmer, the impeccably-dressed and charming ladies man that takes on a man a decade older than he, Steve Carell’s Cal, as his protégé, decided to show him the ropes of the world again, to getting his game back after Cal has been cheated on and asked for a divorce from his wife Emily, played by the great Julianne Moore who in my opinion got too little screen-time here.

It’s the great charm of both Mr. Gosling and Mr. Carell and the great rapport that quickly develops between the two that makes Crazy, Stupid, Love. such huge fun to watch, so funny and sharp. Everything about this film is seriously spot-on, it’s equal parts hilarious, sexy, smart and, most importantly, it’s also quite true, everything about this film rings honest and wise, not like the kooky rom-com’s of today, which must have been what attracted such a dream cast to the project. Because Mr. Gosling is not a guy known for romantic comedies, and Mr. Carell is always great when it comes to choosing projects (Evan Almighty not withstanding) and there’s also Julianne Moore and Emma Stone, the two most talented and likable redheads in the business, as well as Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei, two seriously talented veterans who are always welcome on my screen. And then there’s the newbie of the cast, Analeigh Tipton, who was on a cycle of America’s Next Top Model not that long ago, and who here stars as a babysitter and really proved she has some actual acting and comedic chops, and I honestly can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

I just loved this, I loved how it managed to be really funny while still being actually serious, and acknowledging the rather dark current of emotions that set this whole story into motion and shape Cal’s story. It has a lot of confusion and awkwardness, it has a bromance and it may get you to shed a tear or two along the way. Not to mention that, along all of the great things it has, there are also a lot of things it doesn’t have; it’s not raunchy, it’s not overly sarcastic and if there’s cynicism it’s not seen as an agreeable trait. By which I mean, even though this one does play by a certain playbook of the genre, it’s not like the R-rated snark-fests we are used to nowadays; it’s something fresh, it’s something better.

This was also Steve Carell’s first post-Office film, and what a great role it is. There’s not a hint of Michael Scott in Cal Weaver, he’s just an everyman with a nice job and a nice house and a nice family who has to deal with having a good chunk of that seemingly falling apart. It’s a shocker when Emily tells him she wants a divorce when he asks what she wants for dessert, and it’s a shocker to see how badly dressed and out of tune he is at the cocktail lounge where he meets Jacob. Their bromance will include everything you’d expect it to, with the tips in how to leave the bar with the girl of your choice in your arms, to the required makeover montage (which is actually funny in this film), but it will also include quite a bit of heart, and the relationship between Jacob and Cal really fleshes out tremendously thanks to the actors in charge of playing them.

It’s great that this film knows to be patient, it knows that taking its time and letting the story sink in and being witty can be much better than just going forward and forward, ignoring loose ends and churning out loud and racy jokes that don’t add up to much. Cal wants to get even with Emily, who cheated on him with the character Kevin Bacon plays, and wants to do so by scoring with every woman he can, which includes most prominently the character of Marisa Tomei who, at 47, still has one of the most beautiful smiles in Hollywood. But there’s also Cal’s son, Rob, who has a crush on his babysitter, played remarkably by Ms. Tipton, who in turn has a bit of a crush herself on Cal. And then there’s what happens to Jacob himself, the lady killer who meets Emma Stone’s Hannah one night at the bar and, unexpectedly, falls in love with her.

How the film manages to find such a sublime balance between the required scenes to establish what’s needed, as well as start deploying a few things to be unraveled at the end in a bit of a shocker moment, and the more adult serious stuff that these types of films are too shy to even slightly approach, is terrific. Because, even though this does get sweet and there indeed are a couple of sappy conversation moments, it also acknowledges that there are limitations to love, and it crafts characters that are really believable. It’s these characters that make us love this movie, they are allowed to feel and to grow throughout the two hours this film runs, and the great group of actors in charge of playing them are sheer perfection.

Grade: A

The Lincoln Lawyer

25 Apr

Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
Year:
2011
Director:
Brad Furman
Writer: John Romano, based on the novel by Michael Connelly
Starring:
Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bob Gunton, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy
MPAA Rating:
R, some violence, sexual content and language
Runtime:
118 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.5
Rotten Tomatoes:
83%

My dad gave me The Lincoln Lawyer to read in early 2007 if I remember correctly. He was a fan of Michael Connelly’s novels and even though he knew I wasn’t a particular fan of best-selling crime genre thought I might like this one. And he was right, the novel went by really fast and I thought it was quite entertaining, and after that I got into some of his other books and found that they, especially those with Connelly’s mainstay Harry Bosch as a protagonist, were pretty okay as well.

So four years later after I read the novel, and six after it was originally published, we get the film adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer. And I was originally worried because Matthew McConaughey had landed the lead role of Mickey Haller, and even though I thought Mr. McConaughey was a pretty slick guy who had been dependable on rom-coms like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days I didn’t necessarily consider him a good actor.

But then I saw the film, and found out that this was a role that needed Mr. McConaughey to turn up the charm quite a bit, which is something he’s really good at, so he was actually pretty superb in the role, which is probably the best performance he’s given in his career. And that’s not to say that this is a film that goes by just on the charm of its star, because the people that are lined up to star alongside Mr. McConaughey are all seriously great actors, from Marisa Tomei to Bryan Cranston to William H. Macy, the supporting cast here is stacked up with some really awesome names that elevate this one considerably.

And that’s really what The Lincoln Lawyer has going for it that makes it so damn entertaining, a charming star to carry it along and a rock solid cast of supporting players. Because, other than that, it’s not like this one deviates all that much from the courtroom-thiller formula we are all so familiar with by now, but because the cast is so good it doesn’t feel formulaic at all, but instead behaves much like the novels it’s based on did when I read it, it goes by really fast and is real good entertainment from beginning to end.

This is what I talk about when I say a Hollywood commercial film is good, a true surprise that while coming with a studio budget and a string of recognizable faces still managed to be stylish, entertaining and quite clever as well, which is something that in today’s mainstream film world is easier said than done.

I mean, as I said, this is still pretty formulaic, your typical who-did-it courtroom drama that plays out at least once a night in a network TV show. The thing is that this one abandons all the cheap gimmicks and is just a really solid film that doesn’t assume it’s great, but rather approaches its audience much like the sort of novel its source material was, one that you’ll buy at the airport and devour on the plane, the sort of entertainment that doesn’t have ambitions of grandeur, that won’t have you overthinking it, but rather one that you’ll have no trouble keeping up with, I really wouldn’t mind if this became a franchise and we got to hear Mr. McConaughey’s southern drawl as Mickey Haller once every couple of years.

Because Mickey Haller is actually the sort of role Mr. McConaughey should have been playing since he started out, not the charming muscular dude some blonde will fall over in a yearly romantic comedy, but instead a stylish and smooth-talking  wise guy that actually has something interesting to do, think of him here as a cheaper-but-still-effective version of George Clooney. Mickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney who works out of a Lincoln Continental armed with a loyal chauffeur and that usually doesn’t mind getting innocent guys to go to jail so long as a paying customer can walk off innocent.

Yet we see him get a new case from Louis Roulet, a young rich playboy played by Ryan Phillippe who’s been accused of murdering a call-girl, which isn’t as easy as the ones he usually gets, and that starts to get messy real fast, with Mickey and the people he loves getting involved themselves. And while the many plot twists this one throws at you aren’t entirely unexpected nor unpredictable, they make do for fun viewing, not to mention the characters here are all pretty cool, and Los Angeles is portrayed quite nicely by cinematographer Lukas Ettlin, who also shot L.A. in this year’s inferior Battle: Los Angeles, and director Brad Furman who makes his sophomore directorial effort with this one after 2007’s The Take.

I really recommend watching this one, I mean, we see films with smart wise-ass guys quite a bit, and a few of those also include courtroom scenes, but the vast majority of those only focus on the main guy, and don’t pay any mind to the people around him.

And I really can’t stress enough how important that is here, I mean, Mr. McConaughey does indeed give probably the best performance of his career here, one that keeps his macho looks and southern charm alive but that injects him this new-found vulnerability which hopefully is only the beginning of a new stage of his career.

But the people he’s surrounded with here are awesome, Josh Lucas as his opposing attorney, the great Bryan Cranston as a cop, the incomparable William H. Macy as his P.I. of choice. And then there’s Marisa Tomei, who I’ve a had huge crush on since I can remember, and who’s incredibly beautiful and who possess probably the best smile in the world. She plays Mickey’s ex-wife who’s still his friend, and she’s as awesome as ever, and you’ll probably go to jail if you think any different.

Go watch this one if you can, I honestly doubt you’ll be disappointed. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, it was far from amazing, but it was appropriately acted and for all its predictable moves and unnecessary plot lines it never once felt dull. This is what every courtroom thriller made for popular consumption should aspire to be, a film that’s doesn’t really aim for greatness but that doesn’t assume you’re dumb either, and that has charm and talent to spare, just a job well done by everyone involved.

Grade: B+

Wild Target

9 Dec

Title: Wild Target
Year:
2010
Director:
Jonathan Lynn
Writer:
Lucinda Coxon, adapting from the original screenplay by Pierre Salvadori
Starring:
Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Eileen Atkins, Martin Freeman, Rupert Everett
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, violence, some sexual content and brief strong language
Runtime:
98 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.8
Rotten Tomatoes:
29%

 

The ensemble Wild Target managed to assemble was simply sensational, just look at those names above and you’ll know just how good this film could have been. Unfortunately, though, their talents are wasted in this film, the remake of 1993 French film called Cible Emouvante, which really wasn’t all that much better. Seriously, this film never worked for me, but I found myself actually enjoying bits of it, if only just because of the collective charm of this terrific group of actors. But that’s just the thing, the actors may have been very charming, while the film is anything but.

Maybe it’s the fact that when someone tells me about a British dark comedy film about assassins my mind instinctively thinks about the sublime In Bruges, and under that standard very few films could do well. Or maybe it’s just that this one just wasn’t very good. The assassin in question is played by Bill Nighy, and he’s very good at his job, going into every job professionally and never taking things personally, just dispatching the ones he’s paid to do in and going back to his business.

Bill Nighy is a really good actor, his supporting turns in films like Love Actually, The Constant Gardener or Notes on a Scandal all very good examples of what he can bring to a movie. Now here he is in a starring role, and if you’ve seen the stuff he’s done in a couple of 2005 TV movies then you’ll know amazing the guy can be in those too. I”m obviously talking about The Girl in the Café and Gideon’s Daughter, both performances which got him nominated for a Golden Globe, and the latter of which actually won him the trophy.

So yeah, Mr. Nighy is always a pleasure to watch, and here he is reunited with Emily Blunt, one of his co-stars in Gideon’s Daughter, who plays Rose, a con artist he’s hired to murder because she’s crossed a couple of the people you don’t want to ever cross. However, after watching her go through her work as professionally as he does his he begins to like her, and decides he’s not able to do this one job.

This may be another problem for Wild Target. These two are amazing actors, and we’ve seen them do something great together before this one, and the fact that they’re not warranted the material needed to recreate some of that magic makes one a bit pissed off at this one, just desperately wanting it to be something more than it is.

Even the direction is quite alright, Jonathan Lynn being the guy who directed the lovely Marisa Tomei to her Oscar for My Cousin Vinny, it’s just that the script is a mess. True enough, the source material wasn’t all that hot to begin with, but Lucinda Coxon’s adaptation of the original script is still nowhere near decent, it tries to be in many genres at the same time, referencing many styles all at once, and it never once gets it right.

Anyways, we have Mr. Nighy’s character, Maynard, developing feelings for Rose. And we also have Rupert Grint, with whom Mr. Nighy has worked in the last Harry Potter film, playing a character who Maynard and Rose kind of bump into along the way and Maynard takes him in as an apprentice. As well as Eileen Atkins playing Maynard’s mother, a very demanding woman, and Martin Freeman who plays a rival assassin. I love the actors here, but the roles are just stale, and this would have been a much better film had the plot remained just focused on Maynard and Rose and the evolution of their relationship, too much is made of other stuff for that side of the story to fully mature.

Mr. Nighy and Ms. Blunt bring their all to Wild Target, these are two actors who work off each other damn well, but there’s just not much to work with here. There’s a lot of killing and a lot of a lot of things, but nothing is really needed, the humor is iffy at its best, even though our two leads bring their own wits to this which adds a lot to it all. For two actors that can play off each other so well, the relationship their characters develop is just horribly weak, it’s just a frustrating ordeal to watch all in all. Not entirely bad, but it could have been so much better.

Grade: C+

Cyrus

23 Jul

Title: Cyrus
Year: 2010
Directors: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei,  Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh
MPAA Rating: R, language and some sexual material
Runtime: 91 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

I’m a huge fan of the Duplass brothers, I think their style is unique and is exactly the sort of style I personally admire, if not irrevocably enjoy, and in Cyrus they work with a trio of actors I’m also a huge fan of, John C. Reilly, a guy who’s as versatile as they come, Jonah Hill, one of my favorite young actors, Marisa Tomei, who apparently looks hotter every day, and add into that mix Catherine Keener in a supporting role, and she’s just all sorts of awesome, so, you see, there was, in my mind, no way in hell Cyrus was going to be bad.

The thing about Marisa Tomei is that she’s immensely likable, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t find her charming and lovely, and in this film she’s as likable as ever, when she has her grown son, played by Mr. Hill, and her new boyfriend, played by Mr. Reilly, rivaling off over her. All she wants is for them to get along because she loves them both, but her boyfriend, John, just wants to be alone with her and her son, Cyrus, is incredibly possessive of her, as possessive as one would be of a girlfriend, though there really isn’t any assumption of incest in here at all, but it’s like that, as though these were two men who wanted to get it on with the same girl and they had to battle it off.

John starts being okay with it all, he obviously knows he can’t have her alone forever and really thinks she may be the one, but Cyrus is just so protective that he’s always meddling in, using her mother’s feelings towards him to get her to choose him over John. This is a film about passive aggression and this sort of rivalry that’s hidden so that Molly, Ms. Tomei’s character, doesn’t notice it much, and that creates great situations, full of an awkward sort of funny that works wonders with such capable minds like those of the Duplass brothers at the helm and those of Hill and Reilly to portray it on screen, using a helluva lot of improvisation in the films brightest moments.

This is a very controlled film, there’s a complicated situation at the center of it, but the actors and directors cleverly don’t jump from one joke to the other, but instead take their time, exploring the emotional complexities behind it all, letting it all linger and creating this sort of uncomfortable feeling to it all, especially in those scenes when Cyrus behaves like a baby and is all over his mom to create jealousy in John, who can’t believe Molly doesn’t realize what’s going on, but who fears that if he says something about him she’ll take Cyrus’ side and be done with him.

I think Jonah Hill is terrific, I’ve said so for a long time now and think he is, alongside Jason Segel, the funniest member of the Apatow clan and definitely one of the funniest men in America nowadays, and in this film he’s great as he tackles a different sort of role, a different sort of funny, this performance is more nuanced than the one’s he’s given before, he has to pretend to like John but do little things to slowly tick him off, the way he and John C. Reilly play off each other in these scenes is terrific. And that’s not to understate the performance of Marisa Tomei, she’s also fantastic because her role is one that has to be played calmly, a woman who has a grown son who’s way too dependent on her and who’s all alone romantically, and desperately needs a real man by her side.

It’s a film that deals with this sort of social awkwardness we can all relate to, and the Duplass brothers explore it nicely aided by great actors that get this offbeat comedy to shine brightly, this is seriously smart acting, all of which has a lot of improvisation to it and is based on a great chemistry by Mr. Reilly and Ms. Tomei, that makes their character’s relationship so believable, and a humor from Jonah Hill completely different from what he’s done before. A very welcome effort by the Duplass brothers, who go admittedly more mainstream in this one and not so much along their previously designated mumblecore route that was appreciated by some like me, but rejected by many others, so yes, this is a huge step forward from everyone involved, and one we can all enjoy.

Grade: A-