King of Staten Island, Dethroned

Sorry pals, this is not Apatow’s best film yet, though the movie starred many of my favorites. The reasons are varied, but primary may be the fact that Pete Davidson’s recent stand up special contained many of the anecdotes found in this based on his real life film. And because Pete is such an honest, self-deprecating story teller, I’d rather here his real personal take, than a fictionalized watered down, and I’ll even go so far as saying bloated (2 hours and 16 minutes) version.

Which is too bad since I love Bill Burr (as Pete’s mom’s first boyfriend post 9-11 widowdom) and thought his performance was off the charts. With his cheesy ginger mustache, I bought he was a hard ass fireman. Bel Powley was excellent as Pete’s assertive girl friend. Ricky Valez was cool as Pete’s bros before ho’s friend. Kevin Corrigan who does not get enough parts, has his typical cameo here. And another underrated stand up comedian, Lynne Koplitz, who I saw at McCurdy’s in Sarasota, FL, should be a regular in any comedy, had two to three scenes in this, but yet not enough leash to show her comedic talents. Pamela Adlon is great as Bill Burr’s jaded ex, though she appears to be suffering from bad Louis CK karma. And while I hate nepotism, Maude Apatow was solid as Pete’s sister.

Ok, and here’s the saddest part of King Of Staten Island, Marisa Tomei is one of my favorite actresses of all time: In the Bedroom, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead and The Wrestler to name my top three, is not believable as Pete’s mom, nor Bill’s love interest. I saw through every scene and didn’t once feel for her.

I did like the movie, but it’s no 40 Year Old Virgin, Trainwreck nor even Funny People.

Coogan + Brydon=Bliss: A Trip to Greece

Here’s a first: I rented the new, fourth and unfortunately last of Michael Winterbottom’s Trip series with the delectable Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon AND was enjoying it so intensely, I watched it in spurts in purpose. Their impersonations, singing, sound effects are so dizzying, their conversations so witty and fun, that why you would you want to gobble it all down in one sitting?

While the middle two movies were more basic, the first and last of this series are home run hits. Part travelogue; in this a gorgeously shot trip to Greece and part foodie paradise, the men allegedly are orchestrating a chronicle for the UK Observer amongst all this hedonism.

What’s special about this series is the men play a fictionalized version of themselves: their names are their real names, they have their acting careers as fodder (here for instance, Coogan’s 7 Bafta’s) and their personal lives are a close facsimile to reality (Coogan is single, Brydon married). This last contrast adds poignancy to each movie, this one especially.

I love these two men and am sad this is the last. I could watch them talk, eat, banter forever.

For rent now from IFC for a mere 7.99. Worth the over 90 minute smile I had on my face.

Here’s my own coming attractions: Did you know I also write book reviews? Here’s the link to my recent review posted on Goodreads and feel free to support the book shop I work for at www.bookshop.org/shop/book1 ! Here’s the review link:
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Marriage Story Busts into My Top Three of the Year, Easily!

As if my birthday wasn’t fun enough in NYC with my beautiful son Liam, yesterday thanks to my-friend-who-treats-me-like-gold Jack Guren, I was privileged enough to see a screener of Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach’s take on the gut wrenching process of divorce.

You’d think the way our jaded culture (and myself in colder moments) throws the D-word around like it was simply dust we sweep under the rug that Marriage Story would be a so what story. HOWEVER, anyone who’s gone through the process knows those initial daily disrupting moments are much more than a carpet can hide AND Noah B. captures these awkward and painful moments in true movie magic.

BUT WAIT! There’s more! Not only does he capture the pathos, he articulated this with humor and love. AND THEN he chose the best of the best to portray even the minor characters. The two stars (Scar Jo and Driver) who I’ve adored and then despised, won me over as they escaped into these two human characters. And dare I say, I was convinced by the end that Adam Driver does have more to him than a dead stare, especially after he belts out “Being Alive” at a NYC bar.

Other fantastic performances were executed by: Ray Liotta (GREAT!), Laura Dern who almost always feels to me like she’s overreaching or perhaps is merely a bitch in real life was also great, ALAN ALDA (can I give you a hug-PLEASE nominate this man, I LOVE HIM), and my ever awkward cutie from Baskets, Martha Kelly. Also super were Julie Hagerty and Merritt Weaver….and Merritt is where my heart sank as it did last night, upon coming back to the quiet of my condo, I remembered Noah’s the guy who left Jennifer Jason-Leigh for Greta Gerwig…ok you’re wondering, ‘what’s Merritt got to do with it?’ Merritt was in Greenberg, another fantastic Baumbauch film CO-WRITTEN by Jason-Leigh at which point, Noah fell for Greta and now I’m sad…which, in the end, only adds to the depth of this film.

I’m so glad I got to see this now as the various podcasts I listen to (and yell at for their occasional lack of taste: you LIKED Hustlers AND The Irishman, blech!) were beginning to drip out spoilers on Marriage Story. But not here folks.

I’ll just say after you get through the annoying (yes I was scared) opening 10 minutes of cliche-ish montage (necessary for back story I am aware and pivotal by story’s end), you settle into moment after moment of cinematic genius. Emotion, Laughs and Atmosphere, the stuff of which every great life should accomplish.

I will see this again. FOR SURE.

Jaded (not Dolemite) is My Name

I sincerely respect the time and effort that goes into screenwriting and movie making. And I appreciated the message behind Dolemite is My Name, follow your dreams, take a chance. And so I feel jaded saying that similar to Pain & Glory, I was non-plussed by Dolemite is My Name. Again, I appreciated the story, but just wasn’t moved or inspired.

Here’s why: The Disaster Artist to me was a fantastic movie. The cameos and writing were comedic, yet there were also touching moments. With Dolemite, it was all too breezy, I never felt the angst in Eddie’s character to make me want to root for him. And I love Eddie Murphy, I love his stand up, all of his SNL characters and his other movie performances.

I also fully realize the writing team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have a large body of work, specializing in biopics “The People Vs. Larry Flynt”, “Ed Wood” and “Big Eyes” to name a few. Yet Dolemite, like “Big Eyes” is simply likeable because the emotions involved are stifled.

Back to my sunny optimistic “What’s good?” self…the best acting in the film is actually done by Wesley Snipes, who plays the diva movie star Eddie cons into being in his movie. I also enjoyed the cameos: Snoop Dog and Chris Rock. Da’Vine Joy Randolph was gorgeous as the female lead and Tituss Burgess was also totally believable.

Back to my dark side: Craig Robinson stuck out like a sore thumb as did Keegan-Michael Key. They are just simply transparent, much like the wigs used in the film, just very artificial.

I’ll stick the landing, to use a gymnastic term, and end on a positive note. The costuming was out of this world, from the flashy suits Eddie wore, to the beatific outfits Da’Vine donned. And that’s about the only category I’d vouch for an award nomination.

Sure, Dolemite is My Name is entertaining, but when people start to go ga-ga over a film that doesn’t move me emotionally, I just have to speak out.

Glad It’s Night and The Two Popes

To finish off the Cine-World Film Festival at Burns Court Theater in Sarasota, the programmers showed The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener) and written by Andrew McCarten (Theory of Everything and Bohemian Rhapsody).

The Two Popes, while a tiny bit bloated (chop off the first chaotic ten minutes), was charming and heart warming.

While rumored to be a Spotlight indictment of the Catholic Church, this is actually the antithesis, a hope that the Church is getting back in touch with human needs and pain partially due to the beauty of Pope Francis.

My Catholic exposure is not extensive (though I went through Pre-Cana to get married and agreed to raise my son Catholic) and The Two Popes taught me a lot about Catholicism in regards to how a pope is chosen and some of the politics involved with religion. I certainly was ignorant to Argentinian strife that the movie told in a perfect balance of angst without gratuitous violence (PRAISE JESUS!).

At its core The Two Popes reprises the famous adage: “it’s not about the religion it’s about the relationship.

The acting was tremendous. I can easily see Jonathan Pryce, who I had merely seen in The Wife when he’s done so much more, be nominated for an Oscar. And while Anthony Hopkins was great as well, after reading his Wiki page, have decided he might really be a cold hearted cannibal (ok a bit hyperbole) in hat he has basically disowned his only daughter. I realize there obviously might be much more to the story than any of us can know to judge.

Once this makes it normal run in Sarasota theaters, go see this. Definitely a well told story that not only teaches history, but humanity, too.