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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Jenny Slate

Landline (2017)

Oh. The 90’s. When screening calls was a huge thing.

It’s the mid-90’s and the Jacobs family is going through a bit of a problem. The mother, Pat (Edie Falco), is having a rough go at work, but is also not really spending much time, paying attention to her husband, Alan (John Turturro). Speaking of which, he’s also a little bored with life and may be having something of an affair. Nothing’s confirmed yet, however, because his youngest daughter, Ali (Abby Quinn), only found out about after seeing a bunch of poems on his floppy-disk. Meanwhile, she’s also worried about what she’s going to do with her life and also with college. Then, there’s her sister, Dana (Jenny Slate), who is having issues with her fiancee (Jay Duplass), but mostly because she doesn’t know if she’s ready to settle down just yet. This leads her to having an affair with an ex (Finn Wittrock), who may or may not be her last chance at some form of freedom and/or happiness. Either way, this family’s going through a lot.

Same hair. Same blood. Same sisters. That’s how that works, right?

Obvious Child was the sweet, small, soulful, and somewhat beautiful little surprise of 2014. It was 82-minutes of pure heart, comedy, and truth that was rarely seen in movies that were either longer, with more stars, or had a bigger-budget. It ranked on my Top 10 that year, showed me that Jenny Slate was an amazing actress, and oh yeah, put writer/director Gillian Robespierre on my watch.

Then Landline happened.

Okay, actually, it’s not all that bad. In terms of sophomore slumps, it’s not that bad, because it shows us that Robespierre still has the knack for writing interesting characters and smart dialogue, but when it comes to the plotting and actual story itself, the movie just has way too much going on, for such a short time, and with no real cohesiveness. It’s as if Robespierre got something of a bigger-budget, had bigger stars, and more time to play around, so she did, but in this case, it actually went against her.

Lock the door!

And of course, it’s not right to compare this to Obvious Child, because they’re two different movies. But with Landline, you can tell that something’s a bit off this time around about Robespierre and what she’s doing. With the talented ensemble, she’s very lucky, as everyone here isn’t just great, but funny and brings a lot to the table. They all feel like a very lived-in family, who not only have gotten used to each other for so long that they don’t even care to put up resistance any longer, but that they also know each other so freakin’ well, it’s almost painful. That’s how real families are, regardless of how close-knit they are and it’s one of the aspects that Landline nails down well.

The only issue is that every so often, the movie will jump from one subplot, to another, and depending on how interesting one is, the movie works, or doesn’t. Landline suffers from a lot going on, with very little time, and not nearly as much concentration as they should have all deserved. You can tell that Robespierre is trying and relatively succeeding, but I don’t know, something’s just missing.

What it is, I may never know.

I’m not taking Robespierre off my watch, but I will hold her next film with at least a little bit of trepidation.

Consensus: Not nearly as focused as it should have been, Landline suffers from having too much going on, with very little time to actually wade through it all, but gets by on a solid cast that’s willing to make this material into something fun and enjoyable.

6 / 10

The guys in the family can’t do this kind of stuff.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

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Gifted (2017)

Math is hard. But man, it sure can bring families together.

Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy named Mary (Mckenna Grace), who also happens to be his niece. His sister/Mary’s mother, unfortunately, killed herself due to issues with the family and it’s because of this that Frank has taken it upon himself to ensure that Mary doesn’t turn out to have too much pressure put on her. However, she’s incredibly brilliant, is very good at math, and doesn’t just know it, but also allows for everyone around her to know it, too. It’s both a blessing, as well as a curse – a blessing because she’s smart and will always be successful, but a curse because going to the public school that she’s at, doesn’t really challenge her. Like, at all. Eventually, people around Mary begin to take notice and worry that she’s not being challenged as much as she should. Enter Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), who sees it as her task to help get Mary the right treatment she deserves for her genius brain and ensure that her career is an accomplished and masterful one, much like hers was.

You can find out what the square-root of 3,005 is, but you still can’t read? What child prodigy you are!

Everything about the way Gifted looks, feels, hell, even sounds, just brings gags to my throat. It’s not that I don’t mind these schmaltzy tales of hot, attractive people battling happiness and love, but it’s that so often, they aren’t done correctly. Of course, Nicholas Sparks is definitely to be blamed for that, but it goes one step further than that – it almost feels like these kinds of movies are bound to fail, right from the instance that they are announced, filmed, and released to the wide public. The only kind of schmaltz that seems to work nowadays is the pure Oscar-bait that cares about as tears, as much as they care about votes, which means that they want people to cry, by any means necessary.

And then, like I’ve said before, there’s Gifted, a movie that should have absolutely despised and hated, yet, somehow, came away thinking, “Man, why can’t all these kinds of movies be like this?”

Which is to say that, yes, Gifted works. Is it a perfect movie? Nope. Is it an original one? Not really. Is it still kind of schmaltzy and manipulative? Sort of, yes. But everything about it still kind of works in the way that you wouldn’t expect it to. For one, it actually has a heart and soul that you can feel, not just because it’s telling you to feel it, but because the characters are so lovely, the relationships are so well-drawn, and yes, the actual story is worth getting wrapped-up in.

It’s not a very complex tale, but it didn’t need to be; Sparks’ movies are always so bogged down in silly twists, like alcoholic, abusive ex-husbands, or plot-contrived cancer-scares, that after awhile, it’s nice to get a movie that gives us characters, a conflict, and allows it all to play out, without trying too hard to add too much into the rest of the mix. Director Marc Webb and screenwriter Nick Flynn know what they’re working with here and because of that, it doesn’t feel like they’re taking any cheap shots.

Essentially, what we see is what we get.

Don’t worry, everyone: Octavia is just the sassy black neighbor. Not the sassy black nanny. For once.

Of course, that sounds so easy when put like that, but honestly, it’s just nice to get one of these movies. Flynn’s screenplay is solid in that every character has at least one funny-quip to use at their disposal, but everyone still feels like well-rounded, three-dimensional characters, not made out to be god-like creatures, of fire-breathing devil-worshipers – everyone here is a human being, and in that sense, they’re all complicated. Flynn doesn’t forget to overdue the cute nature of his story, but hey, it’s not cloying, which is all that matters.

And Webb, while no doubt trying to get back in his good graces after the two Spider-Man movies, finds himself giving us a smart, humane tale about humans again. Sure, it’s nowhere near (500) Days of Summer, but then again, not many movies are; it’s just nice to have him back, directing original flicks for a change. Hopefully, he’s here to stay and not ready to get sucked up by the machine that is known as Hollywood.

Because what better way to stick it to the man than have your movie star Captain America himself, Chris Evans?

No, I kid. Regardless, Evans is good here in that he’s his usual charming, snappy-self, but there’s also more to him than meets the surface; the relaxed, chill nature he gives off, eventually starts to show signs of sadness that’s deeper than you’d think. Evans has been looking for a hit outside of the Marvel universe for quite some time and it’s nice to see him finally get it here. Of course, though, the movie is definitely Mckenna Grace’s for the taking and as Mary, she’s quite great. Sure, the character is a type, in that she’s precocious as hell and seems like a 30-year-old trapped inside of a 7-year-old’s body, but it works because you believe in her as this character. If she ever is annoying, or a bit of a pain, it’s because she’s meant to be and not because the movie thinks that she’s just way too cute for our own good.

She is, surprisingly enough, like a real kid. And we get so very few of them in movies nowadays.

Consensus: As schmaltzy and sappy as it can sometimes get, Gifted also works because it has a heart, well-written script, and most of all, solid ensemble of characters who all feel realized and interesting, despite the eventual conventions of the plot.

7 / 10

Like uncle, like niece. Right?

Photos Courtesy of: SlashfilmThrifty Jinxy, Indiewire

Joshy (2016)

When depressed, hang with the bros.

Josh (Thomas Middleditch) and his fiancee (Alison Brie) were all set and ready to get married. However, she decided to take her life, leaving her family, friends, and most importantly, Josh, heartbroken. Why did she do it? Well, no one really knows why, however, Josh’s friends intend on cheering him up the way that they feel is necessary for someone dealing with a tragedy of this kind. That’s why, nearly four months later, the bros all come up to the house somewhere in the mountains, dedicated to them all partying it up and living life, as if it was Josh’s bachelor party, which was what it was supposed to be in the first place. But the guys don’t get bogged down by the sad details and decide that it’s time to get all of the beer, drugs, guns and women that they can find to get Josh’s mind off of everything. But it’s not just Josh who has some problems to wade through, as most of the guys seem to be going through their own issues on this one weekend, figuring out where to go next with their lives and how, just how the hell on Earth, are they going to grow-up and be responsible adults.

Cheer up, Joshy. They don't call you that name all of the time, right?

Cheer up, Joshy. They don’t call you that name all of the time, right? Cause if they did, that actually would kind of suck.

The mumblecore movement may not be quite as vibrant as it once was back in the beginning of the decade, however, it’s still alive and well, bringing in more and more outsiders to the indie-world, showing off their talent for improv and on-the-fly film making that can, often times, create things of beauty. Drinking Buddies seems like the highlight of the mumblecore flicks, in terms of its scope, who it involved, and what it actually did, but there’s been a few every now and then, offering up lovely bits of insightful entertainment.

And now, with his second-feature, Jeff Baena seems as if he’s ready to throw himself into the mumblecore world and doing a pretty good job at it, too.

Of course, what makes a mumblecore movie as good as it may set out to be, is that it needs a reason, or better yet, a purpose to exist. Most of the time, these movies can sometimes seem like low-budget versions of Adam Sandler flicks where, just like him, they use the excuse of a movie being made to get away with having a bunch of their friends around, do and say silly things. While this may work for most film makers because it doesn’t ask for all that much dedication and money, the problems that it can sometimes bring up is the fact that the story itself isn’t always the snappiest and, if anything, made-up as the film-making runs on by.

Here though, Baena does something smart in that he allows for the actual tragedy of Josh’s ex-fiancee to really carry the movie along, feeling less of like an excuse, and more of something resembling a reason. Of course, the darker aspects of the story come out in full-form by the end, and doesn’t quite connect, but at least it’s a movie that’s trying to be something more than the typical “cool, funny, and talented people hang out for a weekend”. While those movies can tend to be quite fun and exciting, they can also become a tad mundane, when you don’t have much of a narrative-drive moving it along.

In Joshy, aside from the tragic suicide early on, the real plot is figuring out these characters, their lives, their problems, and just how they’re going to get out of them. It’s almost too simple, but it kind of works, because Baena has been able to assess a great group of actors to make the material work, even when it seems like they’re just going with the flow. Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Alex Ross Perry, Brett Gelman, and Adam Pally play the core group here and they’ve all got their own problems to work through, some clearly more important than others, but all at least registering on some level.

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don't know!

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don’t know!

Of course, this doesn’t always allow for the characters to come off as likable, either, which is probably fine, in Joshy’s case.

Baena doesn’t allow for his movie to be too pleased or happy with itself; eventually, the characters do have to learn a thing or two about the lives that they live and why it’s not always best to act 13, when you’re 35, or at the very least, nearing it. Joe Swanberg himself shows up and brings these characters down to real life and it’s a honest, relatively tense scene, which is what Joshy seemed to be missing the most of. With the exception a confrontation by the end, Joshy doesn’t really have any confrontation or tension in the air, which I felt was necessary for a movie like this to really work, where jerks are hanging around each other too much, getting on each other’s nerves constantly.

Of course, Baena may not have cared much for this, but while watching Joshy, it’s hard not to imagine what could happen, had the movie tried a tad bit harder. It’s nice to get all your talented and lovely friends all together, in one room, let them do their things, and start shooting, but after awhile, it can start to feel like just a bunch of fun-sequences, and that’s about it. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how charming the cast is – sometimes, more story is better.

Consensus: With a likable and talented cast, Joshy‘s improvised, low-budget feel works, but also doesn’t allow for there to be much of a story, either.

6.5 / 10

I'll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

I’ll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Bollywood Reads

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

As long as they aren’t watching my Netflix, they can do whatever they want.

Max (Louis C.K.) has been as spoiled of a terrier as he can remember, living and enjoying his comfortable life in a New York building with his female owner. However, all of the coziness goes away once Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a giant and unruly canine, is adopted and made out to be the new hound of the pack. Max and Duke obviously don’t get along right away, mostly due to the fact that Max’s daily routine and general life is being disrupted and all of the singular love he had come to expect from his owner, may now be pushed onto this threatening Duke. But one fateful day, when they’re on their walk, they accidentally run down to where the alley-cats are at and, all of a sudden, they’re stuck in the sewers with a rebellious rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who believes that are all humans are bad and that no animal should be held into captivity. Meanwhile, the rest of Max’s pet pals are out there searching far and wide for Max and Duke, believing that they are in harm’s way and need to be desperately back in their households before their owner comes back and worries that something is up.

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

The Secret Life of Pets is the kind of so-so animation we can come to expect when Pixar is back on their game and kicking all sorts of booty in the animation world. It doesn’t necessarily break the mold, nor does it nearly bring us all to as many tears as the Pixar flicks do – they’re appealing enough to the whole family that they’re serviceable enough. And yeah, that’s pretty much it.

And this isn’t to say that the movie is “bad” per se, it just feels like a movie that has a smart idea on its mind, and doesn’t really run to the hills with it. Instead, it sits back, goes for the easy way out and doesn’t even try to challenge the norm. Some people may be perfectly fine with this and there’s nothing wrong with that, however, when you have Pixar taking some of the same brilliant plots, going as far as they can with them, and hitting homers out of the park, left and right, then it’s kind of hard not to compare and contrast the two.

In fact, it’s downright impossible.

That’s why, for what it’s worth, the Secret Life of Pets is just another rehash of Toy Story – however, in this case, you take out the toys and replace them with pets. It’s not the most original idea out there in the world, but hey, it works because who doesn’t love pets talking, moving around, and generally being smart, eh? That’s why it’s a passable movie that doesn’t get a whole lot of mileage out of its premise, but is it bad? No, not really. However, it can feel like a wasted opportunity, especially when you take into consideration today’s generation and how in-love each and every person seems to be with their pets and all of the goofy things that they do.

Don’t believe me? Check the internet and type in “funny dog video”, or even more so, “funny cat video. The results will astound. And honestly, that’s why I believe a good portion of the Secret Life of Pets is made for; it’s not necessarily because anyone had the brightest idea in their head and just needed to get it out there, on film, for the rest of the world to see, it’s more that powers that be saw a popular trend and decided to capitalize on it. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a popular trend of people loving their pets before, but now, it seems what with the internet and video-sharing being what it is today, that it would only make sense for people to be interested in a movie about what pets do when they aren’t home to take care of them and watch over every little thing that they do.

And yeah, for awhile, that joke does well.

The Secret Life of Pets isn’t the kind of movie that aims for the fences with its jokes, or gags; a few set-pieces are actually smart and well put-together, but the payoff is less than lovely. In a way, it almost feels like the movie was set-up in a way that it could get to these certain colorful and lively places, but never really detailing them with good humor. It just all feels like some people were more inspired than others, and unfortunately, those who were more inspired, were working on the animation.

Thanks to Todd Solondz, wiener-dogs will never look the same again.

Thanks to Todd Solondz, wiener-dogs will never look the same again.

And as it is, it looks great and yes, sounds even better, too. Louis C.K. may definitely be an odd choice for a kids movie, but he fits quite well as the lively and spirited dog Max. While it’s easy to picture Louis sitting behind a mic and saying all of his lines, while simultaneously rolling his eyes at the same time, it’s also not hard to picture him enjoying the fact that people want him for these movies, even if he is kind of a racy comedian and all. Then again, so is Kevin Hart and he’s here, being funny and wild as the evil bunny. Others show up and give their voices, too, but no one is really the shining spot; the voices are recognizable, but really, they could have been filled by anyone.

So why don’t we go to those golden days of animation, huh? After all, people like Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, and Jenny Slate, among others, are going to do just fine without voice-over roles – what about Billy West? Or better yet, anyone who ever voiced a character from the old days of Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon?

Pretty sure that they’re all in need of some love and admiration that comes in the form of cold hard cash.

Consensus: The Secret Life of Pets has a nifty idea, yet, doesn’t go anywhere exciting with it, but is entertaining enough to work as a passable, if altogether, forgettable piece of animation that, unfortunately, pales in comparison to everything and anything that Pixar is doing.

6 / 10

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Zootopia (2016)

It’s like the actual United States of America. But with animals!

From when she was just a little bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) was always told that she wasn’t going to amount to much. Because of that adversity in her life, Judy trained for years and years to become a cop in the wonderfully huge and grand melting-pot that is Zootopia, a place where all kinds of creatures can live together in perfect peace and harmony. Eventually, Judy’s dream comes true and she finds herself living in Zootopia, with a solid job as a cop. However, she soon finds out that her job won’t amount to much other than just putting tickets on people’s cars. Though she’s disappointed by this, Judy still remains restless and ready to take on any obstacle she meets out there in the real world, which leads her to Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly and cunning fox, who she has a fear of, just based solely on the fact that fox and rabbits aren’t supposed to get along. Using Nick, Judy discovers a missing otter’s case, which leads her to uncovering a greater conspiracy that involves the police chief, the mayor, and plenty other people in power.

Don't call her "cute". Even if, yes, she totally is.

Don’t call her “cute”. Even if, yes, she totally is.

Last summer, when Inside Out came out, a lot of people were going on and on about how it was, essentially, a “kids movie for adults”. And they weren’t wrong. Sure, the animation, the colorful and wild-looking characters were clearly to attract the kids and get them interested in the first place, but really, the plot, the message and the mechanics of it all weren’t really for kids. After all, no kid would have been able to understand “the id”, “the psychosis”, or anything of that psychological nature, nor would they ever be able to understand just what the characters were searching for, or trying to accomplish. In some ways, that’s why I loved the movie, however, I also realize that perhaps the movie was maybe just a tad too smart for its own good, or even for its own audience.

That said, Zootopia is the kind of animated movie made to grab kids’ attention, but really meant to connect with the older-ones who get stuck bringing their kids in the first place.

And that’s a good thing. For one, Zootopia is a solid animated movie that, yes, looks as great and as detailed as ever. Every character, from the sloths, to the lions, to the cheetahs, the foxes, to polar bears, to the bunnies, to whichever you want to call them, all look lovely and pleasantly cartoonish. However, my main adoration for this movie comes in the way it approaches its universe. It’s the kind of movie that has a smart and relatively interesting idea, but rather than using it to rely on a lame plot or kiddie-jokes, instead, it goes balls to the walls with what it can do.

The story is a cross between a police procedural and coming-of-age-tale, but instead, with a rabbit and a fox in the interracial buddy-cop roles. And while for any lesser-movie, they’d just have that idea and leave it there, Zootopia decides to run wild with it and allow for the movie to build both of these characters up, give them personalities, and allow for them to go on throughout this whole world. After all, certain parts of this world that the movie has created for itself is so inventive and creative, that after awhile, it becomes clear that the movie’s dealing with a lot, but not really losing control of itself.

It has a message. It has a message. And most importantly, it has a story.

Granted, the story can sometimes go on and on and for the sake of telling the movie’s central message (racism and treating others for what they look like, and not who they are, is bad), but it still kept me interested. The movie brings up other points about gentrification, xenophobia, and social-classes that do hit, but it isn’t always actually about them; if anything, it’s just using them as a way to make their story feel and sound more important than it may already be perceived as. Of course, one could go on for days with think-pieces out the wahzoo about what Zootopia is trying to say, but none of it really matters, because guess what? The movie’s just a fun piece of animation.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

Sure, it’s definitely made with the adults in mind, but it’s also a good movie for kids in that there’s a lot of the typical humor you’d expect for them to laugh at and love. However, there’s also smarter, more witty jokes aimed at the adults that have to deal with the social and racial constructs of this world, references to movies like the Godfather and Chinatown (among others), and the fact that each and everyone of these animals are supposed to be portraying an aspect of the real world. It’s all so goofy, but so much fun that you don’t care how far they go with these ideas.

You’ll just be happy that someone’s thinking this creatively for once.

And this is all the more surprising considering that there’s at least three directors (Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore) and two writers (Jared Bush and Phil Johnston) working together. Normally, this spells out an uneasy, messy and uneven bit of trouble, but surprisingly, everybody came together here to create some neat and funny ideas, without ever seeming like they’re just throwing stuff in for the sake of it. And yes, the voice cast is also pretty solid, too. Ginnifer Goodwin is bright and sunny; Jason Bateman is as cool as a cucumber; Idris Elba is brass and brawny; and yeah, there’s others. Just know that Zootopia is a fine piece of animation that, if you haven’t already, just check it out.

It has something to say, but more importantly, has something to do with itself, rather than just waste your time because it’s already gotten your money.

Consensus: With smart ideas and messages about the real world we live in, yet, using animated animals to take humans places, Zootopia is not only cute, but awfully inventive and interesting, even when it seems to be preaching an awful lot.

8 / 10 

Oh, sloths. So silly.

Oh, sloths. So silly. Yet, a little creepy-looking.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Obvious Child (2014)

Oh pregnancy, you just love sneaking up on people and ruining their lives at the most inopportune moments.

Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) has come to a stopping-point in her life. The place she usually works at is closing down soon; her stand-up comedy-gig is doing fine, but not nearly as great as she wants it to be; and now, to make matters worse, her boyfriend decides that now is the time to leave her for the chick he’s been banging all of this time. Obviously this leaves Donna a total wreck, in which she’s constantly at home, crying, getting drunk and leaving him angry voice-mails in the middle of the night, and it begins to affect her stand-up material. However, one night, it seems like she’s met a really good guy in the form of Max (Jake Lacy) because they flirt a lot, drink together, pee outside at the same time and even go home and have some fun, wild, drunken sex. And even though he’s not really her type, Donna was at least happy she got that out of the way; that is, until she finds out that she’s pregnant. Automatically, her mind goes right towards abortion, but she doesn’t know whether or not she wants to tell Max and freak him the hell out, or just do it by herself and hope that he never finds out. But that’s all pretty hard when he keeps on showing up everywhere she turns, wanting to go out on a date and just be with her – something Donna is too unsure about.

This may be a surprise to some, but Obvious Child is a perfect example as to why I love watching movies. Sure, I love them, for one, because I’m able to be transported into this whole new world, different from my own, where I don’t have to worry about certain problems that may be rolling around in my actual, real life during the present time. That’s one reason why I love movies so much, but there’s another reason too that I don’t talk too much about, and that’s the element of surprise.

How I think every guy likes to think of their ex right as soon as the relationship is over.

How I think every guy likes to think of their ex right as soon as the relationship is over.

And by “the element of surprise”, I don’t mean a movie that constantly throws a huge barrage of twists and turns at me until my mind eventually fries and turns into mush (as fun as that may sound). No, it’s more that when a movie surprises me with something it does, it says, or makes me feel, then I’m absolutely ecstatic and loving everything about life. It doesn’t matter if I’m two months back on my child-support; living in a cardboard box; have yet to move out of my parent’s basement since ’05; or it doesn’t even matter if I’m having a mid-life crisis of sorts. Fact of the matter is, when a movie surprises me, I’m happy and more than willing to roll with it, just as long as the movie stays reasonable.

And well, for the most part, Obvious Child is a nice little surprise that stays reasonable pretty much throughout the whole hour-and-a-half its on screen for. While that may seem like a short time for a movie that’s not only chock full of surprises, but laughter, smiles, heart, drama, poop jokes, abortion-talk, and stand up comedy, it’s nearly perfect.

Because see, with this movie here, it’s a very simple premise: Sad-sack girl gets dumped, sad-sack girl has one night stand, sad-sack girl gets pregnant, sad-sack decides whether or not to have baby, or get rid of it. It’s all so very straight-forward, but there’s something inherently beautiful about that, if not incredibly realistic, especially in today’s modern society where abortion itself may be a touchy subject, but is still a procedure performed more than a couple of times on a daily basis. Women have it and will continue to have it as long as dudes keep on forgetting to wrap their willies, and there’s no two ways of getting past it.

That’s the exact approach this movie takes to an abortion and doesn’t make any apologies for it whatsoever. It realizes that many people look down upon it as some sort of “practice from Satan”, but the truth is: Not all women want babies. Sometimes, women just want to live their lives without any prior obligations/responsibilities as is; heck, sometimes most of these women can barely take care of themselves, let alone a baby that they have to nurture, care for, change, wash, and breast-feed on a day-to-day basis. And for a movie like Obvious Child to not only approach this idea on more than a few occasions this way, but to actually go so far as to get everybody’s different, opposing viewpoints on the subject, really makes this movie a refresher of what is really going through most people’s minds.

But don’t be worried, because this movie isn’t just all about abortion (although advertisers would definitely like to continue to show it off as that way) – in fact, it’s more about the sad-sack girl I was talking about earlier, Donna Stern, and her problems in life and how it may have just gotten a whole lot worse.

It should also be noted that the movie makes it a big point to show Donna as a troubled, immature, and idiot-like girl that doesn’t always do, or say the right things, yet, still has enough about her to like that makes this whole small journey worth watching. Worth watching because it’s interesting to see this woman and how she lives her life, but also because it’s a slice-of-life from a person’s life we don’t too often see portrayed in the movies, unless they’re gritty, muggy and zero-budget indies (aka, Obvious Child).

But like I was saying before, Donna does some dumb stuff – most especially when she finds out that she’s pregnant and decides to keep it away from the guy who actually did impregnate her – but there’s something about the way she carries herself through her everyday adventures that makes her worth rooting for and hoping that, at the end of the day, she’s happy and satisfied with the way her life has turned out to be. She’s not that great of a comedian, but at least she tells jokes that gets enough people laughing to where she can do the same ones on her friends, make them smile, make them laugh, and as a result, do the same.

Also worth mentioning too, we’re introduced to her in the first ten minutes of this movie, we see her on stage, telling jokes about her personal life with her boyfriend (with her boyfriend in the crowd when this is happening), gets dumped, gets completely bombed, starts drunk-dialing him, and waking up the next morning feeling like shit. Usually, for any movie with any other different character, this would be too much for one audience to handle in the first ten minutes; but for some reason, it feels like a reasonable introduction to a character who may not be complex in every which way, but feels like a real person just like you or I. She likes to laugh, have fun, live life, and just be herself. For that, she’s totally worth loving for, even despite the selfish, thick-minded decisions she makes throughout our time spent with her.

Life is good when your whinin' and dyinin' with David Cross, who for some reason, isn't playing David Cross. Just some comedian who looks, acts, and sounds like David Cross.

Life is good when your whinin’ and dyinin’ with David Cross, who for some reason, isn’t playing David Cross. Just some comedian who looks, acts, and sounds like David Cross.

With all that being said too, I think it’s no surprise whatsoever that Jenny Slate is absolutely terrific as Donna Stern, and not for the reasons one may think. If you’ve ever seen Slate on programs like on Parks and Rec, or more infamously on SNL, you know that this gal can be quite funny when she’s playing “weird”. However, what Slate does so well here is that she just plays it normal; she’s not constantly mugging for the camera when she knows she’s being funny, nor does she over-do when she’s trying to show off her serious, melodramatic acting-chops. Like Donna herself, she’s just doing her, and I was so glad that she made that decision, cause I wouldn’t have wanted her playing anybody else.

Though the rest of the cast isn’t big, or better yet, filled with any sorts of big names that will have everybody running to the nearest theater, everybody’s fine with what they’re given to do and help shape Donna into more of a person, purely by judging how she interacts with every one of them. Most important to mention though, is Jake Lacy who plays the possible father-to-be of Donna’s unborn child, and is every bit of sweet, and nice, and charming, and dorky. So much so that it’s incredibly endearing that you want to see him and Donna get together, even if they are total and complete opposites that would never work as a couple, let alone as parents. Yet, this movie makes a good argument as to why they could be together and it would work out; maybe not as parents at first, but definitely as a couple who goes out on dates, makes jokes, goes to the bathroom outside in public, and just has a good time in general.

In a way, they’re the perfect couple. But not really.

And that’s just how life is: It’s not always perfect, in fact, it’s pretty damn messy. But it all depends on how you get through the muggy parts, and venture on to doing what’s best for you and what makes you yourself happy. If you can do that, then there’s no problems whatsoever.

So just keep on living. And next time, practice safe-sex. But if you don’t, do what you what you think is best.

Consensus: By approaching the topic of abortion with a realistic, understanding view-point, Obvious Child not only doesn’t judge anybody, or anything in particular, but is also just your average, simple tale about an average, simple woman. Yet, it’s always entertaining, insightful, interesting and most of all, heartfelt.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Wrongly-matched and nervous. Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes upon the perfect 21st century couple.

Wrongly-matched and nervous. Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes upon the perfect 21st century couple.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz