Tag Archive: steve carell


Amy Schumer is one of the biggest names in comedy right now, so it comes as no surprise that she managed to team up with Judd Apatow. Apatow’s been responsible for helping boost the careers of some of the biggest names in comedy today, including Steve Carell and Seth Rogen. Now he’s directing Schumer in Trainwreck and, despite being written by Schumer herself, this still has all the trademarks of a Judd Apatow film. It’s too long and the laughs start to disappear in the film’s second half, but when Schumer writes a joke, it almost always sticks the landing. There are some great character moments here and the relationship between the two leads is incredibly sweet. It’s just a shame that the film’s second half replaces humor with predictable romantic clichés.

Amy (Amy Schumer) is a 30-something New York journalist who currently works for a sleazy men’s magazine. Her father (Colin Quinn) was never able to make his marriage work and he has influenced Amy to abandon a life of monogamy. She sleeps around with as many guys as she can, drinks a lot, smokes pot and is essentially the opposite of her married sister, Kim (Brie Larson). Amy’s latest piece is an interview with Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a celebrated sports doctor. The two instantly take a liking to each other, which directly goes against Amy’s stance on marriage and long-term relationships. Does she really like this guy enough to change her ways?

Amy’s character is clearly somewhat of a representation of Schumer herself and this gives the more emotional moments in the film a feeling of dramatic sincerity. Admittedly, most of the dramatic moments in the film’s second half are fine, but they just can’t live up to the fun hilarity that the film starts out as. It also doesn’t help that Amy and Aaron’s relationship, while sweet, is on a completely predictable romantic movie trajectory. But while the story is nothing you haven’t seen before, it’s ultimately the performances and the humor that save the film. Schumer’s script is filled with dialogue driven humor and watching these funny conversations play out is a joy to watch. Every member of the cast has at least one standout moment, but it’s ultimately Schumer and Hader that bring the majority of the heart and humor to the proceedings. Both of their characters are funny, but they always feel like genuine people and not over-the-top comedic stereotypes. We’re able to care about their relationship because of this, even when the plot of the film falls into familiar territory. Trainwreck might be nothing more than a typical romantic comedy, but at least it’s a typical romantic comedy done very well.

Trainwreck receives 3/4

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My 2015 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, Gone Girl

– 

Best Director

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

Will Win: Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Should Win: Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Snubbed: Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Will Win: Michael Keaton – Birdman

Should Win: Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Snubbed: Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Will Win: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Should Win: Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Snubbed: Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Will Win: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Should Win: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Snubbed: Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Will Win: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Should Win: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Snubbed: Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Will Win: Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Should Win: Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Snubbed: Locke – Steven Knight

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – Jason Hall

The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Will Win: The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

Should Win: Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Snubbed: Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Best Animated Film

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 I guess, but I honestly don’t care

Snubbed: The Lego Movie, obviously

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida

Leviathan

Tangerines

Timbuktu

Wild Tales

Will Win: Ida

Should Win: Out of all the nominees, I’ve only seen Ida. So Ida, I guess.

Snubbed: The Raid 2

Best Documentary

Citizenfour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

Will Win: Citizenfour

Should Win: Virunga

Snubbed: The Overnighters

Best Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Will Win: The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Should Win: Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Snubbed: Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Best Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Will Win: “Glory” from Selma

Should Win: “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

Snubbed: “I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman – Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar – Richard King

Unbroken – Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Interstellar

Snubbed: Fury

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar – Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Fury

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock

The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic , Tatiana Macdonald

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

Into the Woods – Dennis Gassner,  Anna Pinnock

Mr. Turner – Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Snubbed: Snowpiercer

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman

Ida – Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Unbroken – Roger Deakins

Will Win: Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Should Win: Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Snubbed: Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher – Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Will Win: Foxcatcher

Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Snubbed: Snowpiercer

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges

Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood

Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard

Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Snubbed: Edge of Tomorrow, as long as the exo-suits count as costumes

Best Editing

American Sniper – Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Gone Girl

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

Snubbed: Godzilla

My Oscars 2015

The 87th Academy Awards are taking place this Sunday and it’s easily the biggest night of the year that Hollywood has to offer. Some great talent is sure to be honored, but I’m also sure that the Academy will fail to honor some of the more worthy individuals. Since I am not a member of the Academy and can’t actually choose who gets to take home the gold on Sunday, I decided to create my own awards. They may not be quite as prestigious as the Oscars, but maybe some of this year’s nominees will appreciate the praise that I’m giving them. Agree with my choices? What categories would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below!

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

David Fincher – Gone Girl

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Denis Villeneuve – Enemy

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Tom Hardy – Locke

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Scarlett Johannson – Under the Skin

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Carrie Coon – Gone Girl

Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

Naomi Watts – Birdman

Best Original Screenplay

Calvary – John Michael McDonagh

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Locke – Steven Knight

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Best Adapted Screenplay

Enemy – Javier Gullón

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Under the Skin – Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer

Wild – Nick Hornby

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Foxcatcher – Greig Fraser

Gone Girl – Jeff Cronenweth

Interstellar – Hoyte Van Hoytema

Best Original Score

Enemy – Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans

Godzilla – Alexandre Desplat

Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Best Original Song

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

“Split the Difference” from Boyhood

“Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

 

Best Editing

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

Gone Girl – Kirk Baxter

Interstellar – Lee Smith

The Raid 2 – Gareth Evans

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Best Production Design

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Arthur Max

Foxcatcher – Jess Gonchor

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley

Snowpiercer – Ondrej Nekvasil

Best Sound

The Babadook – Frank Lipson

Edge of Tomorrow – James Boyle and Dominic Gibbs

Fury – Paul N.J. Ottosson

Godzilla – Erik Aadahl, David Alvarez and Ethan Van der Ryn

Interstellar – Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten and Richard King

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Edge of Tomorrow

Godzilla

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

My Top Ten Films of 2014

Best of 2014

Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): 22 Jump Street, Calvary, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, John Wick, The Lego Movie, The One I Love, The Raid 2, Under the Skin, X-Men Days of Future Past

  1. The Guest – Any of my honorable mentions could have made their way into my number 10 slot, but I ended up choosing Adam Wingard’s hugely satisfying thriller, The Guest. It’s a story about a naïve family who open up their home to a total stranger, only to discover that this man is not as innocent as he seems. Like Wingard’s past efforts, it’s nothing more than a genre exercise, but it’s one that feels uniquely fresh and entertaining. With great performances, slick action and an awesome soundtrack, The Guest feels like a throwback to some of the more ridiculous action films of the 80s, while also managing to mix in its own modern sensibilities.
  1. LockeLocke is 85 minutes of Tom Hardy driving a car and talking on a phone. That’s it. Writer/director Steven Knight has somehow taken a gimmicky premise and used it to provide a wholly realized portrait of man who is simply trying to make the right decisions in his life. The character of Locke is forced to deal with the complications of a concrete pour, while also recovering from the confession of his infidelity to his wife. Attempting to supervise a concrete pour over the phone may not sound exciting and when the movie first begins, it isn’t. But as we begin to learn more about who Locke is and why he’s choosing to make these decisions, every aspect of his life becomes more and more fascinating. This is really a film that gets better and better as the film progresses and it’s all because of the slow development of Locke’s character and Tom Hardy’s incredible performance. Locke is a simple story, told in a unique and daring fashion.
  1. Fury – A profile of five men operating a tank in the European Theater of WWII, Fury is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. The action sequences are intense, well-directed and manage to separate themselves from the pack of other WWII movies with their focus on tank warfare. The film is bloody, brutal and none of the characters ever feel safe from the onslaught of enemy fire. A sequence that pits four American tanks against a superior German tank is shocking and exciting, as is the climactic standoff where our squad must battle an entire battalion of SS Nazi soldiers. But the action is worthless if you don’t care about the characters, so director David Ayer makes sure that each tank member has a distinctive personality. A highlight of the film is an extended sequence where Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman’s characters play house with two young German women. It’s a break in the action, but it goes to show how desperate these men are to receive some semblance of normalcy within the consistent chaos that they’re exposed to day after day. By making the war seem legitimately scary, Fury earns its place alongside all the great WWII movies.
  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to deny that Wes Anderson has developed a style that’s uniquely his own. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’s crafted his most beautiful looking film. Thanks to incredible set direction and production design, practically every frame of the film is a visual wonder. You could watch it with the sound off and still be entertained, but then you would be missing out on the engaging story and sharp dialogue that add another layer of beauty to the film. Aided by a great cast, Anderson has crafted a hugely entertaining tale that works as a remembrance for passed down stories and an affinity for days gone by. Viewers willing to check into this film are sure to enjoy their stay.
  1. Enemy – A surreal and provocative mindbender that’s as frightening as any horror film released this year, Enemy is an intricately plotted thriller that demands multiple viewings. From the opening shot to the final frame, it’s a film that will hold its viewers in a near constant state of suspense. Director Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to last year’s Prisoners proves that he’s a master at holding viewers on the edge. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a great two-sided performance and the grim cinematography from Nicolas Bolduc effectively provides the feeling that something just isn’t quite right in this world. Speaking of things not being quite right, the ending is a real shocker that ranks up there with the best of this year. Viewers accustomed to having every plot detail spoon fed to them should look elsewhere; this is a film that will lead to questions, interpretations and conversations. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of cinema.
  1. Boyhood – Shot intermittently from May 2002 to October 2013, Boyhood chronicles the life of a young boy named Mason from ages 6 to 18. It’s an incredible production story, but the film transcends this potential gimmick with fully realized characters, heartfelt moments and interesting themes that most coming of age films don’t even attempt to tackle. Never before has a film so expertly captured what it’s like to live in the 21st century. Everything from the clothes, to the hairstyles, to the vernacular feels authentic with the time period because each scene was filmed in its respective year. Decades from now, people will look back on this film as an authentic snapshot of life in the early 21st century. The amount of things that could have gone wrong with director Richard Linklater’s ambitious project are endless, but somehow everything came together to create a true piece of art that is as beautiful and moving as any motion picture can be. Linklater’s naturalistic direction keeps things poetically simple and eleven years of footage leads to an ending that is breathtaking in how it says so much by saying so little. This is surely one of the most realistic films ever made, but it’s also one of the most magical. I’ve never seen anything quite like Boyhood.
  1. Gone Girl – Adapated from Gillian Flynn’s entertaining page-turner of the same name, Gone Girl is a harrowing mystery that’s engrossing from start to finish. Fans of the source material will be pleased at the faithfulness of this adaptation, while new viewers will be absolutely floored by some of the twists and turns that this movie takes. Not only is it a great thriller, but it’s also a great satire of modern relationships and marriages. The extreme, heightened scenario that these characters are placed in may be rare, but the actions that they take while in this strange scenario are simply exaggerations of what many people do while in a marriage. Couples lie to each other, pretend to be someone else and struggle for power. These characters are written as hyperbolic exaggerations for a reason. Director David Fincher once again proves that he’s a master behind the camera, crafting a film that never lets up throughout its extended runtime. Not only does it rank right up there with his best work, but it’s also one of the most wholly satisfying thrillers to come out in years.
  1. Nightcrawler – A brilliant satire of modern news and the cutthroat business world, Nightcrawler is a startlingly accomplished directorial debut from Dan Gilroy. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the best performance of 2013 and crafts a totally unique and interesting character in the process. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a total sociopath, willing to put anybody into danger as long as it will get him further ahead. He wants to achieve success and he absolutely does not care how he gets there. Gyllenhaal reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role and Bloom’s gaunt physique and long hair only add to his uncomfortable persona. The script by Gilroy also offers plenty of dark humor that may catch some viewers off guard. Gyllenhaal’s character is so loathsome that you almost have to laugh at all of the horrible acts he’s willing to commit. All of these acts culminate in a fantastically directed final action sequence, one that continues to shock even after you think it could go no further. It’s a film that’s full of surprises and feels like a breath of fresh air in the occasionally mundane cinematic landscape.
  1. Foxcatcher – If you’re looking for a feel-good film to boost your spirits and morale, then I must warn you to stay far, far away from Foxcatcher. Here is a sports film with all of the happiness sucked out of it, which is then replaced by an ever mounting sense of dread and scenarios so disturbing that they’re borderline horror movie territory. But what makes this film scarier than most is that it’s completely true. In his best film to date, director Bennett Miller has crafted a true-life tale that’s as haunting as a quiet nightmare. Miller is aided by a fascinating script and three transformative performances from Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo. Aided by some extensive makeup work, Carell’s performance as the wealthy John du Pont is a true standout and the character that he embodies lingers long after the film has ended. It’s a thematically rich film about tragedy, loneliness, the obsession to achieve greatness, and the idea that the wealthiest people in America can use their money to buy whatever kind of life they desire. In just his fourth feature film, Bennett Miller has created a true work of art that is nothing short of astounding.
  1. Whiplash – Sometimes the best thing about movies is their ability to surprise you. Before I saw Whiplash, I would have never imagined that it would end up being my favorite film of 2014. Now, over two months since I originally saw it, my love for the film has only continued to grow. This tale of a maniacal jazz conductor and the young student that he chooses to inflict his wrath upon is intense and undeniably powerful. This isn’t a heartfelt story of a teacher encouraging a student to do his best; it’s a story of a harmful relationship between an abuser and an abusee. Director Damien Chazelle’s directing is tight and spot-on, while his script smartly explores the idea of wanting to achieve something regardless of the cost. Miles Teller delivers an extremely physical performance as we watch him bang on the drum set until his hands are bloody, while J.K. Simmons creates one of the most vicious, ruthless, disturbing and downright evil characters to appear in a movie in quite some time. All of this builds to a final sequence that is equal parts shocking and exhilarating. Just as the film appears to veer towards a fairly obvious ending, the rug is pulled out from underneath us with a truly surprising reveal. Chazelle manages to find an ending that is neither completely uplifting nor completely upsetting and entirely avoids the schmaltz that is typically associated with similar films. It’s more frightening that any horror film I’ve seen in years and one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences that I’ve ever had. With taut direction, amazing performances and an infectiously toe-tapping jazz soundtrack, this is sure to blow away your expectations, just like it did mine. Whiplash is, without a doubt, the best film of the year.

Foxcatcher – Movie Review

If you’re looking for a feel-good film to boost your spirits and morale, then I must warn you to stay far, far away from Foxcatcher. While this is technically a sports film, it doesn’t contain any of the hope, cheer or victory that is usually synonymous with the genre. This is a sports film with all of the happiness sucked out of it, which is then replaced by an ever mounting sense of dread and scenarios so disturbing that they’re borderline horror movie territory. But what makes this film scarier than most is that it’s completely true. Based on the true story of wealthy aristocrat John du Pont and the Olympic wrestling team that he formed on his Foxcatcher Farm, Foxcatcher is almost too strangely bizarre to believe. Directed with a cold, didactic method by Bennett Miller, it’s a film that grabs you and refuses to let go. It’s admittedly a little slow at times, but what’s happening on screen is usually so fascinating that you’ll be unable to look away. Featuring three of the best performances of 2014, Foxcatcher is a film with such a bizarre true story that you’ll be unable to get it out of your head, even days after the film has ended.

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is a champion wrestler who won gold at the 1984 Olympics, alongside his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). But Mark has not achieved the fame and success that his brother has. He’s a lonely guy and he’s constantly living under his brother’s shadow. But one day he receives a phone call that invites him to visit the Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania. Mark flies to the estate, where he’s introduced to John du Pont (Steve Carell), one of the wealthiest men in America. Du Pont is creating a private wrestling team and he wants Mark to be an integral part of it. Mark eagerly agrees and immediately moves onto the du Pont property. He and John start to spend a great deal of time together and they begin to form a strange bond. It’s this bond, along with the estranged relationship that du Pont shares with his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), that will lead to tragic and unpredictable situations.

From the eerie archival footage of Foxcatcher Farm that opens the movie (accompanied by Rob Simonsen’s haunting, sparingly used score), Foxcatcher holds you in an icy grip. In his best film to date, Bennett Miller has crafted a true-life tale that’s as haunting as a quiet nightmare. It’s very deliberately paced, almost crawling along at the speed of a snail to match the strange situations and uncomfortableness of the characters. And while the film is undeniably slow, it’s absolutely gripping from start to finish. The screenplay by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman ably explores these characters and the unique situations that they place themselves in. Aided by Greig Fraser’s suitably grim cinematography, Miller cloaks these characters and developments in a constant feeling of cold dread. There’s not a moment that feels out of place, which is strange for a film that feels so unusual.

But perhaps the most interesting thing in the entire movie is the character of John du Pont. I knew absolutely nothing about the man as I went into the film, but Miller and company do a fantastic job of exploring the psyche of this unusual character. He’s a man who was born into an extremely wealthy family, one that had so much money that du Pont could basically purchase anything that he desired. But his mother was clearly not a good caregiver and her lack of love and support were key factors in du Pont’s idiosyncrasies. Du Pont’s relationship with his mother may not take up much screen time in the film, but it’s a hugely important aspect to what makes the man tick. He’s clearly trying to impress his mother with his wrestling team; a scene where she visits a practice becomes extremely uncomfortable when John tries to show off some basic maneuvers in front of her, only for her to leave the room moments later. I’ve never seen somebody quite like this guy and it’s his character that gives the film most of its dramatic unease.

Steve Carell may not have been everybody’s first choice to play such a dark character, but he was undoubtedly the right choice. I’ve been championing Carell’s abilities as an actor for years now, but his performance as John du Pont is the highpoint of his career thus far. Aided by some extensive makeup work, Carell’s appearance is downright off-putting. With a large nose, clammy skin and a tendency to tilt his head back, he really does look like du Pont. But his performance is more than just appearances; from the way that he talks, all the way down to his strange mannerisms, Carell practically becomes the character. I’ve read testimonies about du Pont and watched old footage of him and Carell absolutely nails it. And while he’s undeniably creepy in the role, he also brings a humanity to the character that most performers simply would not be able to do. This is a man who is clearly mentally unstable, but his poor mental state is not entirely his fault. He was born into a family that was far from normal and he has a mother who treats him terribly, never offering a shred of affection or support. A scene where Carell confesses that a childhood acquaintance was only paid to be his friend by his mother is downright tragic. Still, all of the sympathy in the world can’t change how creepy du Pont is and Carell is able to get under your skin. Every scene that he’s in, you just can’t take your eyes off of him. This is a performance that people will be talking about for years.

But this is just as much the story of Mark Schultz as it is John du Pont. As Schultz, Channing Tatum also delivers a career-best performance. Schultz lacks all of the charm that Tatum is often known for, but he slides perfectly into this character. Schultz is a lonely guy and his entire life revolves around wrestling. He doesn’t seem particularly bright and he doesn’t have a lot of personality, but he’s a good person who just wants to make a name for himself. He looks up to du Pont like a father figure and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch how quickly Schultz attaches himself to this strange individual. Tatum’s performance is the most physical in the film, particularly in one scene where he destroys a hotel room. Tatum has a great onscreen relationship with Mark Ruffalo, who delivers a fantastically understated performance as Mark’s older brother Dave. Dave is the most “normal” character in the entire film and Ruffalo plays the part with a warmth and understanding. The relationship between Mark and Dave is a complicated one, but it’s clear that they both care for each other and it’s obvious that Dave very much loves his younger brother. Ruffalo is great in every scene that he’s in, but he’s particularly outstanding in a sequence where Dave is unable to call du Pont his mentor in front of a documentary filmmaker. Finally, Vanessa Redgrave is great as John’s mother, Jean du Pont. She only has a handful of scenes, but her performance is a crucial aspect to the overall film. She’s a cruel woman and a scene where she calls wrestling a low sport successfully explains so much about John’s character.

I could go on and on about what makes Foxcatcher so great: from the perfect production design by Jess Gonchor that captures the look and feel of Foxcatcher Farms, to the great editing from Jay Cassidy, Stuart Levy and Conor O’Neill that prevents the film’s slow pace from ever dragging, this is a production where near perfection is achieved in practically every department. It’s a thematically rich film about tragedy, loneliness, the obsession to achieve greatness, homoerotic undertones within the relationship between John du Pont and Mark Schultz and the idea that the wealthiest people in America can use their money to buy whatever kind of life they desire. But even with the heavy subject matter, the film manages to be funny in the darkest possible way. From John’s declaration that his friends call him “Golden Eagle”, to a scene where John coaches Mark on a speech to give while also snorting cocaine, you’ll be surprised at the number of laughs that pop up in this dark drama. In just his fourth feature film, Bennett Miller has created a true work of art and put it up on-screen for all of us to see. Foxcatcher is nothing short of astounding.

Foxcatcher receives 4/4

ImageBy the beard of Zeus, Ron Burgundy is back on the big screen in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The original Anchorman was a modest success when it was released nine years ago, but it has gained a substantial following thanks to DVD sales and cable syndication. The film’s endless quotability has also helped make it one of the most popular comedies of the last decade. In their follow-up to one of the most successful films of their careers, writer/director Adam McKay and cowriter/star Will Ferrell are able to retain the sense of humor set by the original, without making the sequel feel like a derivative retread. It does feel too long and there are some plot points that feel uninspired, but fans of the original will not be disappointed.

Anchorman 2 takes place several years after the events of the first film. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are now married and they live in New York with their young son. They continue to co-anchor the news together, until they are called into the office of Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford), one of the most famous anchors in all of news. He informs them that he is retiring, prompting him to promote Corningstone and fire Burgundy. Ron gets upset at Veronica for taking the job and moves back to his hometown of San Diego.

Jump ahead six months and Ron has reached his lowest point; he has been fired from his job at Sea World and has even attempted suicide. All hope seems lost for our hero, until he is approached by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) a representative for GNN, the first 24 hour news network. He tells Ron that they are hiring talented broadcasters from all over the country to move to New York and participate in this experimental channel and they want Burgundy. Ron agrees, moving to New York and bringing his trusted news team of Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).

This brief synopsis only scratches the surface of an intentionally erratic plot that also includes awkward sex scenes, a major character recovering from a tragic ice skating accident and the nursing of a beached shark named Doby. But underneath all of this craziness, there is actually a fairly clever message about the state of modern news. The film (which takes place in 1980) highlights the transition of news from serious investigative journalism to tabloid/puff pieces that are only reported to gather ratings. The film pokes fun at these kinds of news reports and our consumption of them as viewers. It’s not a particularly subtle message, but the fact that it is present in such a goofy comedy is welcome nonetheless.

But what really matters is whether the film delivers the laughs and, for the most part, the laughs come so quickly that you will have to control your laughter because you do not want to miss the next joke. But with such a zany plot, certain segments are bound to be better than others and there are a few portions of this film that do not work at all. A romance that develops between Brick and Chani (Kristen Wiig) should have been one of the film’s highlights, but most of these scenes fall flat. Watching these two incredibly dim characters fall for each other is somewhat sweet, but the humor feels like it’s trying too hard to get laughs. There is also a fifteen minute segment at the start of the film’s third act that relocates Ron to an abandoned lighthouse and it feels very out of place.

Just as the film begins feeling too long, an incredible segment occurs in the film’s climax that saves it. I wouldn’t dare spoil what happens, but it’s a throwback to the news anchor battle that occurred in the first film and it’s full of increasingly impressive cameos. Its silliness reaches such high levels that it begins to border on surrealism. This scene alone is funnier than most modern comedies and it makes Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues worth seeing. It’s a joy to spend the holidays laughing with such a hysterically funny news team.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues receives 3/4

The concept of the end of the world is a frightening one. Not only does it mean the death of ourselves, but it also means that everyone we know will also perish. Anyone you have ever talked to, any animal that you have ever held, any baby that you have heard cry, will no longer be alive. For me, this is a frightening concept, so it is very interesting to see a comedy film tackle this subject matter. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, the apocalypse is not shown through the eyes of a scientist or an important political figure. Instead, it is shown through the eyes of an ordinary man, making his actions, and the actions of those around him, almost instantly relatable. This is an interesting change in formula for a disaster movie, but it works thanks to a humble director and two fantastic lead performances.

When it is announced that a seventy mile wide asteroid is set to collide with Earth, Dodge’s (Steve Carell) wife leaves him and he finds himself facing the end of the world alone. Everyone around him appears to be living their final days to the fullest, but he doesn’t want any part of it. What he really wants to do is find Olivia, his first love. After a riot breaks out in the city, Dodge and his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) embark on a road trip to find something for each of them: Dodge wants to reconnect with Olivia and Penny hopes to see her family one last time.

First time director Lorene Scafaria doesn’t try to do anything flashy with her end of the world tale. She knows that the focus of the film isn’t on the asteroid; it is on Dodge and Penny. Knowing that the film was partly a romantic comedy, I was secretly hoping that the friendship between Dodge and Penny would not blossom into a romance. It would have been much less predictable and I also think that spending the end of the world with a platonic friend is an idea that has yet to be explored. But as I sat and watched these two characters spend time with each other, I ended up rooting for them to end up together. The romance in the film is handled extremely well and, despite being nearly polar opposites, the optimistic and free spirited Penny and the calm and collected Dodge seem perfect for one another.

The tone of the film ranges from goofy to downright depressing, so don’t expect as many laughs as a normal Carell flick. Still, there are a decent amount of laughs to be had, most notably in a scene where Dodge and Penny visit an overly friendly restaurant. But the best moments in the film are when there are no laughs to be found. A scene where Penny is able to call her family using a satellite phone is very bittersweet and a scene where Dodge tells a truth to a still sleeping Penny is enough to break your heart. A few more laughs in the film’s third act would have helped to balance things out a bit, but it also could have ruined the emotions setup by Scafaria.

While it may not be quite as good as his performance in Crazy, Stupid, Love, Steve Carell’s portrayal of Dodge comes very close. As an actor, Steve Carell can be instantly relatable and that is the case in this film. We feel sorry for Dodge because he cannot control the situation he has been placed in. His life is in such shambles, that the end of the world doesn’t seem as awful to him as it does to most. His performance is also very funny when it needs to be. When Penny reveals to Dodge that the key to their car is now buried underground, his reaction is one of the funniest scenes in the film. The character of Dodge rarely tries to be funny; it is his reactions to what is happening around him that provides the most laughs. Keira Knightley is an absolute delight as Penny. Her optimism makes you instantly fall in love with her character, which means that we never question Carell’s interest in her. I cannot remember the last time that Knightley lit up the screen like she does in this movie.

By crafting a love story that is sure to have a tragic demise, Scafaria may be guilty of toying with our emotions, but she does it so well that you can’t blame her for it. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is easily the best love story of 2012 to date. The more that I think about the film and the message that it is trying to send, the more of an effect it has on me. The film has a few problems that needed fixing, but the overall impression that the movie left on me trumps all of them. Audiences expecting a fun time at the movies are sure to be disappointed, but audiences expecting a poignant and touching dramedy will find something to truly treasure.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World receives 3.5/4

 

Even after the largely hated Cars 2, Pixar still proved that they are the studio to beat, as Brave opened to an estimated $66.7 million. While far from their best opening, this is about on par with Up and Wall-E. This marks Pixar’s 13th straight number one debut and the film should continue to do well in the coming weeks. It is clear that family friendly films are in high demand, as Madagascar 3 ended the weekend in second place behind Brave.

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opened  in third place to a middling $16.5 million. While not an absolutely terrible start, it does not bode well if the film hopes to make back its nearly $70 million budget. Reviews for the film have been mixed to negative, so it is unlikely that this film will have a strong hold over the coming weeks.

 

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World proved that Steve Carell’s name does not always equal box office bank. The disaster comedy earned only $3.8 million over the weekend. This is a very low debut, but the film did only open on 1,625 theaters and its mix of comedy and disaster made it a tough sell. Thankfully the film only cost $10 million to make, so it still has a chance at earning back its budget.

  1. Brave – $66.7 million
  2. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – $20.2 million
  3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – $16.5 million
  4. Prometheus – $10 million
  5. Snow White and the Huntsman – $8.01 million
  6. Rock of Ages – $8 million
  7. That’s My Boy – $7.9 million
  8. The Avengers – $7.04 million
  9. Men in Black 3 – $5.6 million
  10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – $3.8 million

Last weekend saw the first lull in the summer movie season, but this weekend is sure to see a spike in the box office. Despite three new nationwide releases, Pixar’s Brave is almost guaranteed to claim the first place spot. Pixar’s last twelve films have debuted at number one, so Brave will likely be no different. It is opening at 4,164 theaters, which is the largest ever opening for a Pixar film. Last year, Cars 2 opened to $66.1 million and Brave is likely to gross about the same amount of money.

 

Also opening this weekend is the historically inaccurate Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It’s R rating will certainly hurt its box office chances, but the recently R rated Prometheus has proved that an R rated film can still produce a hit. Still, the film’s odd premise will definitely turn off a lot moviegoers, but the recent marketing push has done a good job at highlighting some of the film’s unique action scenes.

 

The only other nationwide release this weekend is Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The Steve Carell disaster comedy, is targeting a much smaller audience, opening at 1,618 locations. Strong word of mouth could really help this film, but mediocre reviews suggest that this probably will not happen.

 

Opening at only five locations, three in New York and two in Los Angeles, is To Rome with Love. Woody Allen’s followup to the hugely successful Midnight in Paris, this film will most likely suffer due to middling reviews. Sony Pictures Classic is hoping to have a nationwide release on July 6.

  • Brave
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • To Rome With Love (Limited)
  • The Invisible War (Limited)
  • Grassroots (Limited)
  • Kumare (Limited)

It is clear that Anchorman 2 will be one of the most anticipated films of 2013, and possibly one of the most anticipated comedies of the last several years. After it was announced that a minute long teaser would play in front of screenings of The Dictator, a teaser poster has been released to increase awareness and please the anticipating fans. While the poster doesn’t show much, it looks very classy, just how Ron Burgandy likes it. The poster also seems to indicate that the full title is Anchorman: The Legend Continues. Ferrell, Carell, Rudd and Koechner are all expected to return and filming is scheduled to being in February 2013.