Tag Archives: Bobby Cannavale

Part of Your World

Ezra

by George Wolf

“The word ‘autism’ comes from the Greek ‘in your own world’. I don’t want him in his own world. I want him in this world.”

That heartfelt line in Ezra is going to hit home for many parents and caregivers, and it serves as the emotional core of a film that carves out some truly touching moments from a well-worn structure.

New Yorker Max (Bobby Cannavale) is a struggling standup comic who is co-parenting his autistic son Ezra (newcomer William A. Fitzgerald) with ex-wife Jenna (Rose Byrne). Max lives with his father, Stan (Robert De Niro), a former chef who’s now a doorman, and the two trade frequent barbs while Max and Jenna weigh the question of whether Ezra would be better off attending a special needs school.

Max can be an impulsive hothead, and when he misunderstands a conversation between Jenna and her boyfriend (Tony Goldwyn, who also directs), it leads to a series of unfortunate events and a three month restraining order.

And it takes a fraction of that for Max to break it because…road trip!

Max has landed an invite to do the Jimmy Kimmel show in L.A., so he and Ezra head cross-country while Jenna, Stan and numerous authorities try to track them down.

En route to the west, Max stops off to see an old girlfriend (Vera Farmiga) and his brother Nick (Rainn Wilson), which only adds to the stellar ensemble that elevates Tony Spiridakis’s script when it defaults to spoon-feeding and obvious sentimentality.

It’s great to see Cannavale again dig into a role that can showcase his range. Too often relegated to mustache-twirling cartoonish villains, Cannavale displays the talent that can make Max sympathetic, even when he’s a maddening mess.

Byrne delivers her usual, chemistry-filled excellence; De Niro scores with some crusty affection and understated humor (including a priceless ongoing gag about cookware); and the charming Fitzgerald ensures that the film’s big heart is consistently in the right place.

That place is here in our world, one filled with neurodivergent people of all manner and mannerisms. It’s a welcome message that Ezra delivers warmly, even if it’s a little too comfortable with convention.

Hearing Voices

Sing 2

by Hope Madden

Are you ever absolutely slain by the voice talent in a cartoon? I find this especially true of a middling animation like Sing, or more to the point, writer/director Garth Jennings’s sequel, Sing 2.

Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Edgerton, Bono, Nick Kroll, Bobby Cannavale, Pharrell Williams, Halsey, Letitia Wright, Eric Andre and Chelsea Paretti round out the set of vocal stylists bringing this animated animal talent show to the big screen. Was there any budget left for animators?

Well, sure. This is an Illumination animation—the good people behind the Minions and all that—and its visual style is bright, colorful and well suited to the animal antics afoot.

What antics, you ask? Well, big dreamer Buster Moon (a koala voiced by McConaughey) wants to take his enormously popular smalltown song and dance troupe to the big time! But are they ready? Will the man in charge of their destiny (a nasty wolf named Jimmy Crystal voiced by Cannavale) choose to murder Buster? And can they find the famous singer Clay Calloway (Bono) in time for the big show?

Who’s to say? What they won’t do is sing originals. Unlike your typical Disney musical, Sing 2 puts recognizable pop songs into characters’ mouths, so it plays a bit like one of those TV talent shows, except less annoying.

Halsey is memorable as spoiled Porsha, and Jennings himself shines voicing the character of theater assistant Miss Crawly.

Still, there’s not a lot new to see here—I think we’re all familiar with “the show must go on” stories. There’s even less new to hear. Characters are likable enough (aside from that wolf), and very solid lessons are learned and themes encouraged.

Plus, some fun song choices keep scenes lively and it is very hard to go wrong with this talent pool.

Not one memorable thing happens. Not one. But Sing 2 is light-hearted, good-natured fun while it lasts.  

Seeing Red

Ferdinand

by Hope Madden

I’m thrilled to announce that Ferdinand, the new animated feature from Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age, Rio), did not ruin my childhood.

Whew!

The story of a peaceful if enormous bull who’d far rather sniff flowers than fight matadors was my favorite book as a little kid, but to stretch these 32 or so sentences into a 90-minute feature-length film, there would have to be padding.

I worried about the padding.

Credit a team of six screenwriters for finding—for the most part—organic ways to develop the story. We meet Ferdinand as a young bull being raised with a handful of other bulls specifically to fight in the ring. Then we follow him on his adventure to freedom from the ring and back into the sights of the matador.

That doesn’t mean the film never feels padded. It definitely does. But a slew of vocal talents including John Cena, Bobby Cannavale and Kate McKinnon helps to keep the film afloat.

Rarely laugh-out-loud funny, a bit bloated and a tad dark at times, Ferdinand still manages to entertain. It looks good, bears a social conscience and remains more or less true to the simple “be who you are” core that made Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s picture book so lovely.





Orphan No More

Annie

by George Wolf

First of all, this Annie wants you to know she is a “little foster kid,” not a little orphan. That’s just one of the many updates made for the new film version of the classic musical, one that doesn’t end up being any better than the first version from 1982.

“Daddy Warbucks” is now a germaphobe business tycoon named Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who’s made billions selling smartphones but now wants to be mayor of New York City. Will’s poll numbers aren’t good, but his advisors Grace and Guy (Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale) think a certain little girl could give him a big bump.

A chance meeting finds Will pulling 10 year-old Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) out of the path of a speeding car, and the internet takes notice. So, why not invite the young street kid to come live in a mansion for as long as it takes to lock up the “swell guy” vote?

Director Will Gluck (Friends with Benefits/Easy A) introduces his film’s sugar-coated sheen with a colorful, pleasant opening, but things quickly fall clumsily flat. The musical numbers, which of course should be a high point, never get off the ground. Gluck’s heart is in it, and though he tries to throw in plenty of visual flair (quick cuts, props as percussion), he can’t muster the pizazz required to keep the numbers vibrant onscreen.

Wallis, so shockingly good at just six years old in Beasts of the Southern Wild, sings well enough and is an impossibly cute Annie, and that’s really all this script requires. The entire cast, most notably Cameron Diaz as mean Miss Hannigan, is pushed to exaggerated, big eyebrowed performances, which may fit the comic strip origins of the characters but often leaves the film feeling too childish.

With a two hour running time that will make the littlest viewers restless, Annie is more concerned with modernizing the plot through multiple nods to social media than actual storytelling. Despite some well-placed cameos and a few clever, self-aware asides, it ends up being a mixed bag of Christmas candy, endlessly sweet but never satisfying.

 

Verdict-2-5-Stars

 

 

 





Too Good to Hate

 

by George Wolf

 

Here’s a news flash:  Cate Blanchett can act a little bit. In fact, her performance in Blue Jasmine is so effortlessly great, it’s as if we’re discovering her wealth of talent all over again.

It doesn’t hurt that writer/ director Woody Allen has given her a fantastic character to dig into, and Blanchett gives Jasmine multiple dimensions from the very first scene. Jasmine is bending the ear of a fellow air traveler, her neurotic front of superiority on full display. It is a complex role to be sure, but Blanchett has us hooked from the start.

Jasmine’s marriage to Hal (Alec Baldwin) has crumbled, taking with it a luxurious life in New York. Broke and desperate, she’s forced to swallow some of her ample pride and move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco.

Ginger and her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay– surprisingly effective) have a suspicious history with Jasmine, while Ginger’s new boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) tries to stay friendly through the constant, sometimes not so subtle put downs. As we witness Jasmine’s effect on everyone around her, frequent flashbacks slowly provide answers to questions from the past.

Though Blanchett and the excellent ensemble cast do find some humor in Allen’s sharp dialogue, this isn’t funny business. After scoring with wonderful, whimsical, globe-trotting comedies the last few years (Midnight in Paris, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Allen comes home to craft a finely tuned drama on common anxieties of modern American class warfare.

The film offers plenty to like, but Blanchett’s Oscar-worthy performance sits at the very top of the list. She makes a shallow, obnoxious character so completely human you can’t bring yourself to hate her.

A sublime intersection of character and actor, Blue Jasmine should not be missed.

 

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars