I was thinking of leaving that as my entire review, but you deserve more….more J.K. Simmons that is! I love J.K. Simmons, and this movie just kept that love going. Simmons plays Frank Gallo, the no-nonsense, businessman father of Martin’s (Emile Hirsch) ex-girlfriend Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton). Six months ago Martin had a disastrous “meet the father” night with Ginnie and Mr. Gallo, where he did everything wrong. He didn’t pull out Ginnie’s chair for her, he sat down before her, he is a musician, he’s a vegetarian, he spilled wine on her father. Things could not have gone worse. Flash forward to today when Mr. Gallo knocks on Martin’s door looking for his daughter, not knowing that Martin and Ginnie broke up a few months ago. Martin takes Mr. Gallo on a wild chase all across Los Angeles, meeting an array of characters, and following hints and slim leads that might lead them to Ginnie, who isn’t answering her phone.
As the night goes on, what you expect to happen pretty much does happen; Martin and Frank slowly warm to each other and end up forming a friendship. They learn a bit about each other, and so do we. We learn a bit about why Ginnie and Martin broke up, we learn a bit about why Frank broke up with Ginnie’s mother, and those same reasons are why he has a strained relationship with his daughter to this day. The film was funny and just what I was expecting. It carefully balanced sarcasm and relatable situations with mild slapstick humour. I think the term “predictable” is used too often when talking about movies. I wouldn’t say that All Nighter was entirely “predictable”, I’d call it more of a “comfortable” movie. I was comfortable with the way things unfolded because while a lot of what happened was what I expected, they also didn’t do the most expected things. Martin did not get back together with Ginnie, and I’m glad he didn’t. His character had fallen into alcohol and depression when she left, but the night with Frank did help him and moved him out of that funk. To simply get them back together would have been a waste of every discovery Martin had made about himself that night.
The acting was very good, and I loved J.K. Simmons as the tough guy, sarcastic, smart-ass, in-charge-of-every-situation, father-knows-best character. Emile Hirsch was very relatable as Martin and I think he wins the audience as a bit of an underdog. The supporting characters were interesting, from Ginnie’s former co-workers to her former roommates. Kristen Schaal and Taran Killam as Ginnie and Martin’s friends Roberta and Gary were funny at first, but in my opinion overstayed their welcome making their characters more annoying than humourous. The other supporting characters simply did their job and didn’t stick around or return.
Overall though the film had some solid laughs and a decent narrative arc. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and would easily recommend it if you’re looking for some light entertainment for 86 minutes.
Bottom Line: I want J.K. Simmons to be my movie dad.
It took me months to watch The Accountant, and an equally long time to finally review it! Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, on the surface an accountant and a math savant, but underneath he’s something more. When a low level accountant (Anna Kendrick) at a major robotics and prosthetics company discovers some discrepancies in their financial records, the head of the company (John Lithgow) brings in Wolff to “uncook” the books and perform a forensic audit on his company to figure out where funds are being leaked to and by whom. Wolff is a highly functioning autistic math savant so solving the numbers case is simple to him; much simpler than dealing with the staff of the facility, especially Kendrick’s character Dana who shows genuine interest in the problem and wants to help. But Wolff prefers to act as a “lone wolf” and it takes barely a day for him to confirm the findings and get a lead on who might be behind them. As he gets closer to the truth though, the suspects start dying. Unknown to his employers, Wolff is not just an accountant, he’s also a professional assassin who likes to take matters into his own hands when he sees a wrong that needs to be righted. As the plot thickens Wolff is brought into conflict with another assassin hired by the person responsible for stealing the company funds. Unbeknownst to Wolff, the other assassin is his estranged brother Brax (Jon Bernthal). Naturally the two meet in the film’s climax, but what will be the results?
Very few actors are as polarizing to audiences as Ben Affleck. He’s one of those actors who it seems people either love or hate. I’m probably in the minority here, because I’m more “middle of the road” with him. I haven’t seen that many of his films, but of those that I did see, there were some I liked, and some I didn’t. I really liked him in Gone Girl where I think he did a tremendous job of making me forget he was Ben Affleck. I didn’t really like him in Argo, where I found his directing solid, but his own performance very bland, and very “Ben Affleck”. Here though I enjoyed him. His performance was confident, and once again, he didn’t seem too “Ben Affleck” for the part. He clearly did his research when it came to playing an autistic character, and he was very expressive in his performance. The action scenes too were very good, and kept me entertained and engaged. I really like Anna Kendrick, and she was her usual fun and slightly quirky self in the role as a junior accountant, but she may have been a little underutilized, and at the same time a little forced into the script. J.K. Simmons as a director at the Treasury Department who has been on Wolff’s trail for years (but not exactly for the reasons we expect) was excellent as always. I’ll go out of my way to watch any movie with J.K. in it, no matter how small his role. A real treat in The Accountant was Jon Bernthal as Brax. I had only known him as Shane from the first few seasons of The Walking Dead, and didn’t really have an opinion of him one way or another. Here, he really shined, and I don’t think the part could have been any better cast. I’ve heard good things about his performance as the Punisher in the Marvel Netflix Daredevil series which I believe has earned him a spin-off solo series, so I look forward to watching those too.
Quite entertaining, and it threw a few twists at you along the way as the suspense and the mystery deepened. Who was eliminating the fraud suspects? Wolff? Brax? It wasn’t 100% clear until the end. What were Agent King’s interests in Wolff? Did they have a past? Who was the computerized voice that appeared to be working for Wolff, but was also seemed to be giving tips to the Treasury Department? All these led to a very solid action-thriller….which is nothing what real accounting is like I’m told.
Bottom Line: The final shootout scenes reminded me a lot of John Wick, which is never a bad thing.
Disney did it again, and Zootopia took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but I wasn’t overly impressed by it. Sure the animation was flawless, the characters were good, as was the story, but when I watch cartoons, I want to laugh, and I didn’t laugh as much as I thought I should have for a Disney cartoon.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a bunny, who has wanted to become a police officer since she was a child. But bunnies are small, weak and timid, so there has never been a bunny police officer in Zootoipa, the land where animals all live together in harmony. Yes, in Zootoipa prey animals like sheep or bunnies no longer have to fear the predatory animals like jaguars or foxes. Judy fights against prejudice and works hard to become the first bunny officer of the ZPD (Zootopia Police Department), but a case of missing animals comes up that she must solve within 24 hours or else she must quit the force. To solve the case she turns to a street hustler fox (Jason Bateman) for help, and the two set off reluctantly together discover how and why several predator animals have apparently gone savage. Their search leads them through all the habitats of Zootopia and brings them deeper into a web of crime and corruption than they ever expected…
The film naturally has a message as it deals with prejudice and also explores the role of implicit bias in policing, which is good, but I think might have been a bit heavy for the expected target audience. It may be something that the older kids and parents in the audience will pickup on, but would be completely lost on someone like my five year old nephew. Judy does solve the case and does get predator and prey animals to once again get along and live peacefully together but not before realizing her own prejudices. Did Zootopia really need to be Serpico with animals though? When I watch cartoons (and yes, I watch them fairly regularly and by choice as an adult), I want to go back to my childhood and be amazed and entertained and laugh and maybe even shed a tear. Zootopia was entertaining, but to me it didn’t have that magic touch.
A story within a story, and three characters who may all have been the same character. That’s what The Words gave me tonight. This was not a popcorn film; if you watched, paid attention, related to, and thought about everything presented before you, you were rewarded with a wonderful work of fiction.
Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) is a writer, well he would be if anyone would publish his “angry young man style” of writing. Settling in and growing up, Rory takes a job as a mail clerk at a publishing house so his bills can be paid, so his life can go on (even if not in the exact direction he hoped), and so he can get married. On their honeymoon in Paris, his wife Dora (Zoë Saldaña) buys him an attache case from an antique shop as a gift. On the night that he breaks, and confronts his “failure” of a life, Rory finds a manuscript hidden in a pocket of his case. It is the greatest novel he’s ever read. He reads and loves these stories of a young man in France after the close of WWII. Stories of his wife, his love, and his loss. Rory feels the emotion of these Words as he retypes them into his computer, word for word, and line for line. His wife discovers the novel, and urges him to submit it, as this story shows her everything she knows that her husband is, and is capable of. Yes, unfortunately, they are not his Words… Naturally the book becomes a best seller, gaining Rory wealth, fame and accolades; as well as getting his other novels published; but all things come at a cost.
We, the viewer are told of Rory’s story through Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), an author who is giving a reading of his best-selling book to a packed house; a novel about Rory and his deceit and the novel he had published as his own, and a story about the old man (Jeremy Irons) who recognizes the Words he wrote so long ago in Paris and had lost on a train. The old man finds Rory and reveals to him his story, and that he knows Rory’s own. At this stage, are any of these characters, or these stories fictitious or real? By the end of the movie you are left to wonder if any of the characters in Hammond’s book may be real, or even if they may be Hammond himself.
The Words does not give the audience a nice, neat, Hollywood ending; instead it gives a great story, with great; though flawed; characters, played by very good actors. I thought a little about Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and even Hamlet at times while watching The Words, mainly due to the “story within a story” or “play within a play” idea. The cast was tremendous, as I really enjoyed Jeremy Irons as the “old man”, and Ben Barnes as his younger incarnation, giving a great performance with very few actual lines. I may have known it from the trailer, but I was still very pleased to see that one of my favourites; J.K. Simmons; appeared as well, always a good thing, I think.
The parallels between the lives of the three “writers” really made this story work, as The Words unfolded we saw how each of the characters fell into the trap of loving the words, more than those around them.
About a week or so ago I watched A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, again, hooked by the preview I saw on another movie. The premise seemed fairly simple, Harvey Keitel plays “Duke” White, father to five boys from three different women. Never a success in life or with his sons’ lives, Duke seeks to end it all by hanging himself from the tree in his backyard. Unfortunately the limb breaks and hits him on the head. Yup, even suicide is something he can fail at. Not deterred, he takes noose and tree limb down to the Niagara River and throws himself in to plunge to his death over Niagara Falls. His sons gather at his funeral, “Nuts” (Jason Jones) a failed boxer whose claim to fame is winning all his bouts by disqualification because his opponents always hit him below the belt….; Cal (Scott Caan) the womanizing, irresponsible son; and Jacob “Cob” White (Paulo Costanzo) the smart, straight and narrow son; the three boys from his first wife. Also we meet Juicy or Juicebox (Jared Keeso) another wannabe boxer who just isn’t smart enough to properly operate a juicebox, Duke’s son from a stripper, and Todd (Siam Yu) Duke’s 10 year old son from a Vietnamese affair Duke had, who may or may not really be his. After a fight breaks out between the brothers at the funeral, it’s time for the reading of the will. Uncle “Pal”, Duke’s brother and the local priest played by J.K. Simmons, informs the three eldest boys that Duke left them nothing except a death sentence. Desperate for money when the boys were kids he signed them up for experimental drug testing that has now been discovered to weaken the heart of anyone who took the pills.
The boys now set off with their new leases in life, knowing that their lives are going to be a lot shorter. Nuts returns to the boxing ring to save Juicy from a beating in a fight he could not win. Cal feels it’s time to settle down with the “one who got away” (Tricia Helfer) who didn’t really get away, she got incarcerated…and Cob quits his job and starts to live each day like it is his last, making a bucket list and quickly crossing things off of it. It was interesting to see how each son dealt with their newly expected mortality, and the performances by each really shone through. J.K. Simmons was an excellent thread woven into the stories and lives of each that helped tie everything together, and bring everyone together in the end.
The movie was shot in and around my home town of St. Catharines, Ontario (the city got a “thank-you” in the credits) with a lot of scenes naturally being shot in Niagara Falls (a lot on Clifton Hill for those of you familiar with the area) and many in nearby Fort Erie, a town I’ve never actually been to, but that’s beside the point. This movie was a very good dark comedy, dealing with life and death and who we are. Some scenes were just laugh out loud funny, and others really made you think and appreciate the characters and the performances. I really quite enjoyed it, as the cast and story were both engaging enough to keep me wanting more. The ending where all the sons’ stories tie back to each other in one nice neat parcel may be being used a bit to much lately but in the case of A Beginner’s Guide to Endings it did work, even if it was fairly predictable.