Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bedfellows of the Strange

Brooklyn (2015): adapted by Nick Hornby from the novel by Colm Toibin; directed by John Crowley; starring Saoirse Ronan (Ellis Lacey), Fiona Glascott (Rose Lacey), Jane Brennan (Mary Lacey), Emory Cohen (Tony), and Domhnall Gleason (Jim Farrell): Pleasant, nicely acted melodrama got a couple of Oscar nominations for Saoirse Ronan (Best Actress) and Nick Hornby (Best Adapted Screenplay). Montreal also does fine work pretending to be a town in Ireland in 1952. This is the sort of immigrant's story that makes me think of Golden Age Hollywood and earnest CBC movies. But the cast is charming and the low-key writing and characterization fine except for a bit involving an eight-year-old boy writing love letters for his writing-challenged older brother that seems to have wandered into the movie from some lame 1970's Disney comedy. Recommended.

The Sitter (2011): written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka; directed by David Gordon Green; starring Jonah Hill (Noah), Sam Rockwell (Karl), Ari Graynor (Marisa), Max Records (Slater), Landry Bender (Blithe), Kevin Hernandez (Rodrigo), and JB Smoove (Julio): Jonah Hill plays Fat Jonah Hill for the last time (to date) in a movie that's a lot funnier than it should be. One thing that helps is that the movie isn't simply foul-mouthed -- it's intermittently perverse, which is actually rare. It's also short and surprisingly tightly plotted and directed. Recommended.

Date Night (2010): written by Josh Klausner; directed by Shaun Levy; starring Steve Carell (Phil Foster), Tina Fey (Claire Foster), Mark Wahlberg (Holbrooke), and Taraji P. Henson (Detective Arroyo): A bit of a mess into which I assume Tina Fey and Steve Carell were parachuted so as to improvise some laughs. This bullets-and-cops-and-fish-out-of-water comedy seems to have been written in, oh, 1985. It wasn't, but it seems like it. A short, perfectly adequate time-waster that would have been even better with a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack and star turns from Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. Lightly recommended.

The Watch (2012): written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg; directed by Akiva Schaffer; starring Ben Stiller (Evan), Vince Vaughn (Bob), Jonah Hill (Franklin), Richard Ayoade (Jamarcus), and Rosemarie DeWitt (Abby): The Trayvon Martin tragedy saw the studio re-title this film (from Neighbourhood Watch). I don't know if some scenes were removed as well. The movie seems to lack a transitional middle section, but that may just be sloppy writing and/or editing. 

This cast and these writers should have managed something at least mildly great. They don't, but the movie improves noticeably about 45 minutes in as it finally gains some traction and leaves the sad-nebbish comedy behind for loopier stuff involving an alien invasion of suburbia centered on the local Costco, of which Ben Stiller is the manager. Richard Ayoade (Maurice Moss on The IT Crowd) is mostly wasted, though he manages to put an amusing spin on some of his lines. Stiller and the newly thinnish Jonah Hill are also fine. Vince Vaughn is a comedy-killing machine, as is mostly always the case. He's the place where jokes go to die. Lightly recommended.

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