Tag Archives: Adam Brody

Stranger Than

American Fiction

by Hope Madden

Boyz in the Hood is a great movie. In 1991, the same year 23-year-old John Singleton’s feature debut made box office and Oscar history, Julie Dash released the beautiful, generational drama, Daughters of the Dust. No guns, no cops, no real violence to speak of, Dash’s film nabbed a Sundance grand jury prize nomination and cinematography award.

Daughters of the Dust was essentially forgotten upon its release. (It has, thank God, in recent years been rediscovered, restored, and added to the National Film Preservation Registry.) But Boyz in the Hood immediately reshaped movies.

Writer/director Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction takes aim at fiction – print or cinematic – and its problematic relationship with Black trauma. But to say that Cord’s film would like to see movies move beyond Boyz in the Hood and other films that revel in suffering would be to simplify, even miss its point. The filmmaker complicates the discussion with debate over a Black creator’s right to simply pursue success, as any other creator might. Even if that means catering to a white audience’s thirst for Black trauma.

“White people think that they want the truth, but they don’t. They just want to feel absolved.”

You might not expect a film that floats this truth so effortlessly to be a laugh riot, but American Fiction delivers an awful lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

Jeffrey Wright plays cantankerous college professor and literary writer Thelonious “Monk” Ellison. His latest manuscript is not being picked up for publication, his students hate him, and suddenly he needs to look after his mother, who will need round-the-clock care. Which costs money. The kind of money you can make if you pander to exactly the readership he loathes.

Monk does, incognito, and soon he’s pretending to be something he’s not at work and pretending not to be something he is at home. Buried within this are a couple of really lovely, sweetly complex middle-aged romances. Those are rare in films, so they deserve a mention here.

Issa Rae and Sterling K. Brown offer remarkable supporting turns as characters you want to dislike but simply cannot – part and parcel of a film that forever asks you to rethink what you believe you know. And maybe laugh bitterly as you do.

Adam Brody is also a hoot as that same smarmy douche he always plays, but he does it so very well. Jon Ortiz and Erika Alexander both bring warmth and humanity to a story essentially about a man who is not quite sure how to be warm and human.

Wright – an underappreciated genius of an actor if ever there was one – does what he always does. He conjures a fully formed human being, flawed but forgivable and endlessly earnest. Buoyed by a delightful ensemble and cuttingly hilarious script, he delivers one of the finest performances of his career.

I Do or Die

Ready or Not

by Hope Madden

Fucking rich people.

I don’t know about you, but this is a sentiment I can get behind.

Grace (Samara Weaving, Mayhem) doesn’t know whether her soon-to-be in-laws are eccentric or they just plain hate her. Or maybe they are as evil as her groom Alex (Mark O’Brien) and his drunk-but-amiable brother Daniel (Adam Brody) say they are.

The brothers are just kidding, right?

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Devil’s Due—meh) invite you to join the happy couple as they plunge into a world where the wealthiest among us would rather commit murder than do without what none of them worked very hard to earn.

At midnight on Grace and Alex’s wedding night, everyone assembles in the Le Domas family game room: Mom and Dad (Andie MacDowell and Henry Czerny), Aunt Helene (Nicky Guardagni), other siblings and in-laws. It’s a ritual. Just one quick game of hide and seek. What could go wrong?

The inky black comedy plays like a game of Clue gone mad with arterial spray, the film’s comic moments coinciding most often with the accidental slaughter of servants.

The filmmakers take advantage of Weaving’s grit and comic timing, skipping from one bloody comic set up to the next. The plot and the chase move quickly enough to keep you from dwelling on the shorthand character development, the errant plot hole and the occasional convenience. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s a bloody mess.

And yet, the film feels safe, as if it is loath to truly represent the wealthy as people who’d leech the life from those beneath them (a la Get Out). Although, like Jordan Peele’s horror classic, Ready or Not introduces a deeply disturbing song almost as chilling as Get Out’s “Run Rabbit, Run.”

Weaving is proving herself to be reliably badass in the genre, her central performance elevated by the sometimes inspired work of the ensemble. MacDowell, in particular, seems to be enjoying herself immensely.

Even with the clever turns and cheeky performances, the film lacks substance. I mean, yes, I can indulge my secret belief that the rich are evil all day long. So, thank you Ready or Not for playing that card. In the end, though, the film’s just a slight and entertaining (and gory) way to waste your time.



by George Wolf


Want to know if you’ll enjoy the new romantic comedy Baggage Claim? Just take this quick test!

Dig, if you will, this picture:  our heroine is caught in a sticky situation in a man’s apartment and needs a fast way out. After exclaiming “I am NOT going out on that fire escape!” there is a quick cut and she’s…out on the fire escape. She then makes a sad face and wonders, “could this get any worse?” After which, it immediately starts raining.

If that’s funny to you, please pick up the courtesy phone enjoy Baggage Claim. If not, stay far away, because that’s just a taste of the overly contrived, sadly obvious attempts to be charming that this lousy film is lousy with.

Paula Patton stars as Montana Moore, a flight attendant whose love life is a bit stagnant…oh, wait, I mean stalled on the runway! With her younger sister’s wedding approaching, “Mo” feels family pressure to find her future husband in time for the ceremony.

For help, she turns to her best buds at work: the oversexed Gail (Jill Scott) and the requisite gay friend Sam (Adam Brody). The three hatch a ridiculous plan to manipulate travel schedules so Mo can conveniently cross paths with traveling ex-boyfriends.

And, of course, all the exes immediately want to talk marriage when these meetings occur, because that’s what happens when exes run into each other, right?

There are so many things wrong with this film, and Patton is no help. Yes, she’s lovely, but while she’s been barely passable in her dramatic roles, her comedy chops amount to little more than exaggerated mannerisms and mugging for the camera.

Then again, considering her director, David E Talbert, also wrote the source novel and adapted the screenplay, this drama club approach must have been the goal all along.

Scott and Brody both have talent, but are saddled with roles written as tired caricatures, which is perfectly consistent with the entire script.

Check that, there are four funny lines in the film. Deadpan and sarcastically witty, they stand out like a smack upside the head, leaving you looking around wondering what just happened.

What happened is you’ve wasted time and money on a film assembled from the corpses of a thousand lazy rom-coms, waiting for the happy ending you’ve already guessed.