Currently browsing the "Steve Carell" tag.

Review: Irresistible

Irresistible is far more easy to resist than one might hope, despite a strong cast, timely premise and the indelible imprint of former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart as the film’s writer and director. In a nutshell, Irresistible is a scathing rebuke of our campaign finance system, issued through the lens of political satire. Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a democratic political strategist based in DC who travels out to the small Wisconsin town of Deerlaken to help a retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper) run for Mayor, touting the somewhat reluctant candidate as “a redder kind of blue.” The race draws national attention and Deerlaken takes on a political circus atmosphere, replete with media punditry and the arrival of Gary’s republican nemesis Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) to bolster the campaign of the incumbent.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Festival Download

What a great festival! It’s my first year at Middleburg, now in its 5th year, but I was truly impressed by their  selections. It’s a small festival, as yet pretty unknown, but not for long, I suspect. In all I went to 14 films in just over 3 days. It was exhausting, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Films included here are: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ; Mudbound; Last Flag Flying; Faces/Places; I, Tonya; In the Fade; The Divine Order; Lady Bird; Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold; Meltdown; Loveless; Darkest Hour; The Other Side of Hope; and Hostiles.

Review: Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes is okay, but far from the grand slam I was rooting for. I love the story, especially because it’s true: tennis great Billie Jean King agrees to play ex-champ and self-professed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs in a high-profile televised event and kicks his butt, scoring a huge victory for the women’s rights movement in the 1970s. That’s not a spoiler. It’s a well-known fact in sports history. Unfortunately, without the dramatic climax that typically drives a sports drama, Battle of the Sexes is forced to look for bonus points off the court. They include: an exploration of Billie Jean’s sexual awakening as a lesbian and the strain that puts on her marriage; Bobby’s marital woes, childish antics and addiction to gambling; and, my favorite part of the film, Billie Jean’s willingness to take a stand for equal rights and social justice by, in part, organizing other players to break from the establishment and form the Women’s Tennis Association.

Cafe Society

Woody Allen’s latest feels very familiar and not terribly original. It’s like he has a drawer full of ideas for film scenes and he just grabbed a hand full and shot. It has a bittersweet love story at the center, set in Golden Age Hollywood and New York, and the usual Woody stand-in character. This time it’s Jesse Eisenberg playing Bobby Dorfman, a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx who comes to LA to work for his “Agent to the Stars” Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) and falls for his beautiful secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), but eventually returns heart-broken to New York, takes a job with his mobster brother, and marries shiksa goddess Veronica (Blake Lively). The first part in Hollywood is kind of fun, but sadly it runs out of steam when it gets back to New York, almost like it’s two different movies.

The Big Short

I’m behind on my Oscar nominees viewing, but I finally caught this one. I’d expected it to be more like Margin Call, but thankfully, though its subject matter is kind of similar, it is by turns funny and horrifying. Adapted from Michael Lewis’s non-fiction bestseller “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” it tells the story of how a small group of money men saw what was happening in the housing market in 2005 and set about shorting the market and making a killing. Along the way, they tried to wake banking regulators and the wider market to their realization that it was all about to go bust, but were totally ignored by those who were making money hand over fist on bad loans. It is a morality tale, very well told.

The Way, Way Back

I first saw The Way, Way Back way back in early May. I loved it then. And I think I love it even more now (considering the array of films I’ve seen since). It’s a good, solid coming-of-age indie that has the mainstream appeal of a Little Miss Sunshine or The Descendants. As it happens, The Way, Way Back is made by the same people who brought you those two gems. It’s sweet, funny, poignant, sappy, sad and hopeful – with an excellent cast to boot.

Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2 serves its purpose – entertaining the kids. It’s bright and colorful and quirky and cute. Adults may be a tad disappointed at the lack of any real narrative or drama, but all in all, the movie is more than fun enough to justify 98 minutes in an air-conditioned theater.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone won’t blow you away any more than (or even as much as) Oz the Great and Powerful. But if you’re looking for a generally innocuous, sometimes funny, and occasionally gross cinematic outing, Wonderstone does the trick. Even more so if you grew up with one of those magic kits that came with a long multi-colored handkerchief, fake quarter, top hat, and a loaded deck of cards. That will kick the nostalgia factor – and enjoyment factor – up a notch.

Hope Springs

I had high hopes for Hope Springs. But the film falls flat. The story and the characters are certainly real and relatable. But as in life, real and relatable can be quite boring – even at the hands of a stellar cast. Meryl Streep is excellent (as always) in the role of Kay, a woman whose 31-year marriage to Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) has lost its spark and fallen victim to routine. They love each other. But they don’t seem to be much in love with each other any more. So they venture off to the small town of Great Hope Springs for a week of intensive marriage counseling by renowned author and therapist, Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). Carell plays it surprisingly straight, providing the set-up for some of the film’s more funny and touching moments.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Unlike the recently-reviewed Sarah’s Key, which still resonated a few weeks after I saw it, Crazy, Stupid, Love. vanished from memory within hours. It wasn’t bad, by any means; it just wasn’t nearly as good as I expected – or hoped it would be.