Tag Archives: Amy Landecker

SXSW REVIEW: “I LOVE MY DAD” (2022)

“The following actually happened. My Dad asked me to tell you it didn’t.”

One thing I can honestly tell you going into SXSW Film Festival is, I didn’t expect to utter the words, “Patton Oswalt is in the best film I’ve seen from the festival so far”. But alas, here I am with “I LOVE MY DAD”, from first time writer/director James Morosini – who picks up the co-lead role as well, which makes sense as it’s his story that is being told, though as noted by the opening credit quote, his dad says it never did. And away we go on one of the most entertaining road trip comedies to come along in some time.

The story opens with Franklin (James Morosini), leaving a mental health institution having gone through a treatment program after a suicide attempt, leaving his mother Diane (Amy Landecker), overtly concerned about his well-being. While in group therapy, Franklin decided to set some “emotional boundaries” for himself, with the very first one being with his father, Chuck (Patton Oswalt). Chuck has always been a distanced dad in Franklin’s life, one who calls or posts on his sons social media sites, but always missing the big moments from his life leaving Franklin to have always felt he doesn’t care. So Franklin does what we all do when we ‘break up’ with someone, he blocks his father on social media and his phone, which in turn, freaks his dad out once he realizes what has happened.

From there what takes place can only be believed if it is seen as Chuck, feeling left out of his sons life, becomes “Becca” played wonderfully by Claudia Sulewski, a local waitress from the diner in town. Setting up a in ‘real life’ relationship with his own son, knowing well before hand, it’s not going to end well. But before you know it, there he is, driving his son to Maine to meet his dream girl all the while digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole as the trip progresses. You might ask yourself what kind of person would do this – yet alone to their own son – well that is what makes the story here as if there ever was an award for ‘worst dad ever’, then we would have a strong candidate for the winner right here with Chuck.

Of course, there must be some liberties taken as Morosini handles the story with aplomb in the way he dictates the pace, taking it to various levels and making it all the more uncomfortable for his father character along the way. With the adding of catfish lies, the discomfort level raises both comedically adding a tense, crazy suspense, knowing the outcome here is going to be brutal. The weaving in of wonderfully filmed sequences wherein it’s like Becca and him are together, with the bringing text sequences to life, only adds to this.

In the end, the success of this entire film is brought down on it’s leads with a lot of us forgetting that Patton Oswalt is not just a stand up comedian, but can really act, including myself as told in the opening lines here, but then you remember ‘United States of Tara’ or ‘Justified’ and it all comes back to you. As for Morosini, he is gold here – not just doing double duty, but triple duty and it all comes to fruition. Add in a great supporting cast of Lil Rey Howery as Chuck’s friend Jimmy, who tries to tell him how wrong what he is doing really is, and his kinda girlfriend Erica, the always wonderful Rachel Dratch, and you’ve got yourself the Grand Jury Prize winner for Narrative Feature as SXSW Film Festival folks.

Grade: A-

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REVIEW: “BOMBSHELL” (2019) Lionsgate/AnnapurnaPictures

Director Jay Roach’s newest drama is the aptly titled “BOMBSHELL” in which we see a literal sex harassment bomb being dropped with not only the star talent names that are all over the cast of this true story, but of the toxic effects of Chairman Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) as well, and what ensues during this well deserved take down. Ailes, who ruled the roost at Fox News until the toxicity of his created atmosphere surfaces in an accusation that is led by seasoned television host Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), after her firing from the company. What follows, shows us in detail the culmination of the loss of not only his CEO/Chairman title, but of his reign at Fox News. And folks – this ‘Bombshell’ couldn’t have dropped at a better time.

With the #MeToo movement in full force for a couple of years now and with victims coming forward and sharing their horrific experiences around sexual harassment, the revelations are astounding but not surprising after more and more highly regarded and powerful men have been uncovered as sexual predators in the workforce. To be fair, what happened in 2016 at Fox News, does get dramaticized to make it more appealing for the movie going audiences, but at the core of the story is nothing but truth.

The film follows Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) who opts to fight her ouster from the company claiming that her career was marked by frequent harassment often by Aisles himself. At the same time Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), is dealing with backlash from Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and is being forced to endure what she sees as verbal attacks for the good of their audience and ratings.  As this story unfolds, the audience is introduced to Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a young journalist eager to make her way up the corporate ladder. She is introduced to Aisles who asks her to “model” for him claiming that since they work in a visual medium, he cannot just let anyone on the air and needs to ensure “loyalty” amongst his staff. Carlson eventually files a lawsuit but due to the power that Aisles and the Network holds, nobody is willing to come forward to back her and she is faced with taking on the media giant alone. The movie then centers on the key players and their day to day lives which enables them to find the strength to come forward and do what they believe is right.

Everyone here from our leads to the supporting is a respected name and adds in so much to the overall story line.  John Lithgow gives the performance of a lifetime, from the paranoia to his personification of ‘fake news’ to his harassment, both verbal & sexual in nature, of the loathsome Roger Ailes. Connie Britton steps up as his wife Beth Ailes, who seemingly doesn’t want to see what’s right in front of her, until of course it actually is with the tapes Carlson unveils she has. Kate McKinnon is on hand as Jess Carr, the Faux news ‘secret’ Democrat who hides her sexuality in a closet of her own making that she can’t get out of. We have so many small roles that even out this cast with everyone from a hilarious little pivot role of Judge Jeanine Pirro (Alanna Ubach), to Richard Kind stepping in as Rudy Guiliani, Greta Van Susteren (Anne Ramsay), Sean Hannity (Spencer Garrett), Geraldo Rivera (Tony Plana), Bill O’Reilly (Kevin Dorff) and lastly, Jennifer Morrison as Juliet Huddy, one of the very few who filed years before all this came out and was subsequently banished to an outlying station. With all wonderful supporting cast, it’s Margot Robbie who has found her possible Oscar winning role here in Kayla. There are moments when as the horrible things are happening to her, the pain in her eyes is palpable – with the audience feeling and living every second with her. We really have to commend the make up/designers here as Theron really looks so much like Megyn Kelly in this film that at times its hard to not feel like she IS Kelly.  Theron transforms so well, you’d almost think she could pass as her clone with her characteristics, facial expressions, voice, all under perfect control – it’s uncanny. Same with Kidman as Carlson as her acting is nuanced, as she brings an energetic confidence to her character and the film that we all can applaud.

Personally, it can be respected what these women went through and finally stood up for – what can’t always be forgiven is the damage they caused with their words on Fox and waiting so long to finally step forward. While the film touches on important matters that has recently come to the light in droves, it doesn’t always reach its potential and with some choppy editing and often-bizarre narrative techniques, making the story relatively disjointed at times. The film is sure to spark some discussion as despite the events portrayed in the film it appears that many of those who acted improperly managed to financially win from their downfall but it at least set a precedent for those looking to come forward knowing they are not alone.

Grade: B-

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate

“BOMBSHELL” IS OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE // WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW JANUARY 2020

 

 

Review: “PROJECT ALMANAC” (2015) ~ Paramount Pictures

Project almanac

Oh Project Almanac… I was so hoping for a fun and entertaining teen time-travel thriller. What I got was a film that seemed like it was being filmed by a 12yr old with a hand-held camera. Along with a massive headache within minutes, that camera thing got tiresome… fast. And it’s too bad because I really think this film had potential and if you can handle all that movement, which I’ve never liked and you miss a lot of what’s actually taking place because you’re rolling with someone running with a camera while it’s focused on the ground…or the sky… or someone’s head. It’s a shooting decision that adds very little and ultimately distracts from the pleasures of the script and performances. Yeah, not for me.

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Nonetheless, our nerdy & adorable lead character here “David Raskin”, played with a good dose of wit and charm by relative newcomer Jonny Weston, begins the film between a rock and a hard place. He’s been accepted to MIT but doesn’t get a complete free ride so can’t afford the tuition. While his mom talks about selling the family home to pay it, David starts going through the papers and equipment his now-deceased scientist father left in the attic as his mom wants him to clear out preparing for the sale. He and his sister “Chris” (Virginia Gardner) find an old video camera and after he oddly sees his teenage self in a video from when he was at his 7th birthday party they find, with the help of his child-hood techy friends “Adam” (Allen Evangelista) and the funny “Quinn” (Sam Lerner), a secret set of prototypes and blueprints in the basement, hidden by David’s father. As they begin to build a time-machine on their own, the situation slowly dawns on them and they realize looking at the tape…they’ve already done this. project almanac 5

Much like in a horror film where you just want to scream out at the character walking straight into being killed, Project Almanac suggests it’s not so smart to mess with the way things and they should probably in all good thought be left as is. But if that happened, we wouldn’t have a movie here now would we. Especially after David starts going back in time again and again, first to win the heart of his crush and cool girl, “Jessie” (Sofia Black-D’Elia) who just as in any basic teen movie, drops cool status to hang with the nerds and become a time-traveler.
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It’s here that our group use their new time travel power to leap through time — so they can see Imagine Dragons at Lollapalooza. With VIP passes no less. I will admit, I would probably do the exact same thing, even now. 🙂 And it’s all done with seemly little damage except to win the girl of his dreams he goes back alone against their own rules, but as things aren’t always as they seem…David has to correct all the damage his seemingly minor meddling with time has wreaked on the fragileness of reality and keeps traveling back himself. Bad move.
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Even with all of the vertigo-inducing hand-held camerawork and special effects magic that goes into the film’s time-travel sequences, it’s worth noting that the characters in it all act like real teens and you believe they really are all good friends even as things start to fall apart some. The premise of this film is great…and had the camera work not induced me to have to close my eyes at times just to stop my head and stomach from rolling, it would have been a really good film. As is, and because of this filming fiasco, I am barely recommending it and only if you can handle this type of filming would I suggest going as it doesn’t stop throughout the movie.

Grade: C-
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(See grading scale)