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Quickie Review: YES DAY

Who can say no to a YES DAY? This movie is as simple as its premise, and that’s okay. It’s family-friendly entertainment that gives adults and kids alike pause – and cause – to ponder the boundaries of responsibility, and the joys of embracing a ‘can-do’ mindset. Within reason.

Review: Blindspotting

Every year, a few of those ‘smaller’ movies come along that you feel compelled to champion, in a concerted effort to make sure they don’t get lost in the barrage of major studio releases. Blindspotting is one of those films. And not just because I got to meet its co-writer/stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (photos below) and once worked with the film’s editor, Gabe Fleming (on America’s Next Top Model). It’s simply a darned good movie that’s provocative, entertaining and timely.

The Intern

From the opening sequence, you know you’re watching a Nancy Meyers movie. The director of many chick flick gems including The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, and Baby Boom has a definite formula, and it works again here– to some degree. The intern is a pleasant enough movie that manages to shine a humorous and poignant light on some interesting themes, from aging to work-life balance, to friendship and loyalty. But the movie is not without its flaws. There are a couple of scenes that don’t really go anywhere, and a few character traits that don’t particularly track. And, it’s really hard not to draw comparisons to that ‘other’ Anne Hathaway star vehicle, The Devil Wears Prada, where Hathaway plays the embattled assistant to the demanding editor-in-chief of a high fashion magazine (played by legendary actress Meryl Streep). In The Intern, Hathaway is the founder and chief executive of a start-up online fashion site that employs a “senior” intern named Ben Whittaker, played by legendary actor Robert De Niro. Why become an intern at 70? He’s a lonely and bored widower seeking new challenges in his retirement years. And he’s still got a lot to offer.

Grandma

Grandma is a bare-bones indie that will likely appeal to those in the artier crowd who like a simple, dialogue-driven movie and the acerbic wit of Lily Tomlin. The veteran actress and comedian plays a lesbian Grandma named Elle Reid whose granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up on her doorstep requesting about $600 to have an abortion that is scheduled for later that day. Elle doesn’t have the cash — but she’s willing to help Sage get it. The two spend the next few hours cruising around town in Grandma’s vintage automobile in search of friends, and others, who may be willing to float them a loan or give them the money outright. Their unannounced visits rattle a few cages and stir up old memories, especially when they drop in on one of Grandma’s old male flames (Sam Elliott). Needless to say, there’s an interesting dynamic at play here – and it results in one of the more surprising moments the film has to offer.

This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You starts off strong, then loses its way, despite having an A-List cast with the chops to achieve something far greater. Perhaps it was the script. Or the over-abundance of family dysfunction that seemed to loom larger than the fake boobs proudly (and often) exhibited by Jane Fonda’s matriarch character.

Here’s the gist: When their father passes away, the four grown Altman siblings are forced to return home and live under the same roof for a week with their over-sharing therapist mother (Fonda) who used her kids as fodder for a bunch of best-selling books on family dysfunction. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The siblings spend the week confronting their past, present and future, with an array of spouses, exes, significant others, kids, friends and foes added to the mix- for occasional comedic and dramatic effect.

Enough Said

Enough Said is really Julia Louis Dreyfus’ movie. She shines as Eva, a funny, cynical, hard-working masseuse who could probably use a massage or two to de-stress. But as soon as James Gandolfini’s Albert comes on screen, you can’t help but feel a sharp pang of sadness at Gandolfini’s recent, sudden death – and at the loss of a talent that obviously went far beyond his portrayal of Tony Soprano. In this movie, he plays a guy who’s got some flaws, but is also sweet and loveable and funny – especially when he’s exchanging banter with potential love interest Eva. Both are divorced single parents to teenage daughters about to head off to college. They meet at a party and romance blossoms. But so does doubt – at least where Eva’s concerned, after she unwittingly befriends Albert’s ex-wife Marianne, a seemingly near-perfect poet (Catherine Keener) with plenty to say about her ex and the aforementioned flaws.

The Sessions

I’ll make this quick, because it’s an indie best reviewed by the indie-minded among us (note to Arty Chick – the screener is headed your way). I watched The Sessions for the same reason I watched Shame last year. I’d heard that the story was interesting and the performances excellent. And it’s true. It’s just not my cup of tea. And let’s just say it could make for one awkward date movie, unless you’re both heavy into psychology, therapy and the like. The film is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a poet who contracted polio as a child and became paralyzed from the neck down. He depends on an iron lung to survive and though smart and funny (in a dry, sarcastic kind of way), his situation does not exactly attract the ladies.

Up In The Air

The more I think about it, the more I like this movie. And it’s not JUST because of George Clooney, though he does carry most of the movie on his broad shoulders. His female co-stars, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick do an admirable job playing off Clooney in very different and interesting ways. Whenever the movie starts to border on cliché, it tends to take a surprising turn. Here’s the basic plot: Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a guy who lives out of a suitcase and likes it that way. His job is to jet into a city, tell people they’ve been laid off, hand them a severance packet, and get out of town. He racks up the frequent flier, luxury hotel, and rental car points… enjoys the privileges of elite status… and shares a ‘no-strings’ bond with a road-warrior soulmate (Farmiga).