Posts Tagged ‘Jason Sudeikis’

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Colossal

Anne Hathaway stars in this pseudo-monster story, in which an adrift woman moves home after a break-up and discovers that she shares a mental link with a Kaiju terrorizing the people of Seoul, South Korea.

It sounds like the set-up to a quirky dark comedy but “Colossal” remains paralyzed between genres, managing only to be too serious to be funny and to offbeat to be taken seriously. The result is an off-putting mishmash of tone that wastes what minimal goodwill is brought by the cast, including Jason Sudeikis and Tim Blake Nelson. The plot itself hinges on a series of plot contrivances that make less and less sense as the conclusion nears.

Grade: C-

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Raw

In “Raw” a bright, talented and unflinchingly vegetarian student, Justine, enrolls at a veterinary school and struggles to find her place amidst a tradition of byzantine and tiresome hazing rituals. After one such task requires her to eat a rabbit kidney, Justine takes a liking to the taste of meat, which slowly escalates to an insatiable and (ahem) taboo extreme.

It’s an impressive slow-burn and an increasingly unsettling piece of work by director Julia Ducournau. It take a minimalist approach to the grotesque, creating squirm-inducing images with an air of high art. Under a different director, particularly an American one, “Raw” would likely be a vapid, gore-porn slog. But with its European sensibilities and restrained amusement in the unpleasant, the film makes for something truly special.

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Ingrid Goes West

Think of it as “Instagram Millenials: THE MOVIE!” Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid, a delusional and social-media addicted stalker who, after seeing a magazine profile of a California socialite (Elizabeth Olsen), decides to move to Los Angeles and become best friends with her new internet obsession.

“Ingrid” keeps things light, plumbing the comedy out of its protagonist’s mania, while also keeping a hard edge that churns under the surface of its characters seemingly blase narcissism. Olsen, who got her start in the excellent and Sundance-premiered “Martha Marcy May Marlete” is able to flex dramatic muscles that have been kept in a box while she endlessly hand-waves in Marvel Movies. But her character is largely caricature, leaving a vacuum for supporting actors Wyatt Russell and O’Shea Jackson Jr. to steal every scene they’re in.

Grade: B

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Oklahoma City

The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing is the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history, and in “Oklahoma City,” it gets the documentary treatment it deserves.

Director Barak Goodman’s piece is a disciplined, thorough and haunting examination of the event itself, while also paying due diligence to the connect the threads that led to the killing of 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. From Ruby Ridge to Waco, Texas, Goodman connects the threads with elegance, showing the rise of anti-government extremism and white nationalism that motivated Tim McVeigh, all backed up with an impressive catalog of archival footage and first-person testimonials.

Grade: A

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Killing Ground

A couple on a camping trip arrive at a picturesque bend in the river, with a tent standing where another group is camping nearby. But when those campers fail to return to their possessions, the couple begins to worry that something has gone wrong.

The set up is great, as is much of the execution. One tracking shot, in particular, is perfect, shifting from Act I to Act II like a bolt of lightening.

But the film is also too eager to show its hand, doling out information in abundance when mystery should be preserved. The fate of the other camping group, best left for a later reveal, is all but disclosed immediately in broad strokes, leaving nothing but the specific details to work out. “Killing Ground” also makes several wise choices with the relationship of its central characters, but those strengths are undercut by brutally violent scenes that tend to distract more than strengthen investment in the story.

Grade: B-

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Before I Fall

In this mashup of “Groundhog Day” and “Mean Girls,” based on the YA novel of the same name, Zoey Deutch stars as sam, a high school senior who is trapped in a one-day time loop after her friends are involved in a car crash after a party.

The device allows for the type of evolution you would expect, as Sam is forced to reevaluate her loyalty to her rude and WASPy best friend and her treatment of her family and classmates. But what “Before I Fall” does well is allow for all of its characters to evolve, from two-dimensional archetypes in the first act to sympathetic and layered personas by the film’s end. It’s still hobbled by its YA mood, where high school is life and death and mean girls are dictators, but it has more in its head than its peers and Deutch is a winning lead, making for an altogether positive results that exceeds expectations.

Grade: B

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L.A. Times

Much like “Ingrid Goes West,” “L.A. Times” has a lot to say, and mock, about modern young adults, but doesn’t quite have the substance to hold it all together. There’s plenty of smart parody and satire to justify the price of admission, but it never quite adds up to anything.

Telling several separate stories simultaneously, “L.A. Times” follows a group of friends as they navigate today’s dating scene. One couple breaks up after comparing themselves to seemingly successful relationships, another woman fights off the impulse of a bad relationship while being consistently stood up by her cousin’s coworker. The plot is largely irrelevant, and it’s used to serve up commentary on love and living by writer, director and star Michelle Morgan, who is not as clever, nor as good an actress, as she thinks she is.

Grade: B-

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*Portions of this review were originally published during coverage of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

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Director Leslye Headland showed her chops for raunchy R-rated comedy with 2012’s Bachelorette, but in her follow-up, Sleeping With Other People, the filmmaker proves she can balance the belly laughs with a surprising amount of heart.

More than a decade after meeting and losing their virginity together at college, Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) reconnect at a sex addict support group. Neither are true addicts, but both are in a bit of an emotional rut and they form a platonic relationship over their mutual taste for romantic self-sabotage.

That their friendship evolves into something more complicated comes as no surprise, but the way that the film handles the emotional evolution of its comedic stars is surprising. Sudeikis, in particular, dials down his typical shtick to deliver a pseudo-dramatic and genuinely nuanced performance as a man looking for something in all the wrong ways.

The result is a charming and spirited take on modern romance that defies genre and isn’t afraid to poke at big ideas without sacrificing laughs.

Grade: A-

*Sleeping With Other People opens in Salt Lake City on Friday, October 2.

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Sleeping With Other People

Director Leslye Headland showed her chops for raunch R-rated comedy in 2012’s Bachelorette, but in her follow-up, Sleeping With Other People, the filmmaker shows she can balance the belly laughs with a surprising amount of heart.

More than a decade after meeting and losing their virginity together at college, Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) reconnect at a sex addict support group. Neither are true addicts, but both are in a bit of a rut and they form a platonic relationship over their mutual taste for romantic self-sabotage.

That their friendship evolves into something more complicated comes as no surprise, but the way that the film handles the emotional evolution of its comedic stars is surprising. Sudeikis, in particular, dials down his typical schtick to deliver a pseudo-dramatic and genuinely nuanced performance as a man looking for something in all the wrong ways.

The result is a charming and spirited portrait of modern romance that defies genre and isn’t afraid to poke at big ideas without sacrificing laughs.

Grade: A-

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Mississippi Grind

I’m largely agnostic toward Ryan Reynolds. He’s a charming lad and easy on the eyes who, despite several woefully awful films, has made a few films that go down smooth on a Friday night.

But in Mississippi Grind, Reynolds approaches something that almost makes the case for the erstwhile sexiest man alive as a leading man. Playing a nomadic extrovert with a penchant for Woodford Bourbon, he bursts into the life of down-on-his-luck gambler Gerry and the two take off on a cards- and dice-fueled road trip down to New Orleans.

It’s a retro story, two gamblers on the road living day by day, that makes for an interesting character study of its two leads.

Grade: B+

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The D Train

Remember that guy in high school? The guy all the girls wanted and all the guys wanted to be? For alumni committee chairman Dan (Jack Black) that guy is Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) and getting Oliver to come to the school’s 20-year reunion is Dan’s master plan at saving the event and establishing himself as one of the cool guys.

Of course, convincing Oliver to make the trip home requires Dan to take things a little too far, and the bulk of The D Train consists of Black as humble schlub, trying to keep cool while his personal and proessional life unravels.

It’s a relatively simple premise that stretches into increasingly bizarre territory. The result is a not-unenjoyable film that plays more odd than funny.

Grade: B

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Stockholm, Pennsylvania

Nikole Beckwith’s film “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” functions as a sort of intellectual exercise, looking at what happens after an abducted child is reunited with her family. In it, Saoirse Ronan plays Leia, who was taken as a child and returned to a family she no longer remembers after almost two decades in the basement of her captor.

Beckwith approaches each moment with an academic curiosity. Leia’s parents struggle to bond with a daughter they don’t know, arguing over whether it’s best to salvage the past or forge a new future. At the same time, Leia has no reference point for what constitutes a normal family, with normal relationships.

The movie at times hits the nail a little too hard on the head, like one scene where Leia can’t decide whether she’s sad that her whole life was spent with her captor or that the rest of her life will be spent without him. But for a movie that poses more questions than it asks, Stockholm gives plenty for the mind to stew over while swimming through moral ambiguity.

Grade: B

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Pervert Park

To commit a sexual crime is to be labeled forever as a sexual offender, with limits imposed on housing, employment and travel. The system is set up to protect the public at large but what about those individuals who have done their time and are now working toward rehabilitation under the burden of a scarlet letter?

Pervert Park looks at crime and punishment from the perspective of the criminals, focusing on a small community of sex offenders in Florida who reside in a trailer park set up to house them. The crimes range from very disturbing serial abuses to comparatively minor offenses, all told with heavy emotional weight in a series of one-on-one interviews.

It’s an effective storytelling device, showing the humanity behind sometimes inhuman acts of violence and directors Frida and Lasse Barkfors manage to show sympathy to their subjects without absolving them of wrongdoing.

Grade: B+

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