Tag Archives: Catherine Keener

Day by Day

No Future

by Matt Weiner

The title of No Future also serves as an emotional content warning for a film about heroin addiction, and it’s a warning to heed if you want this kind of narrative tempered with breezy redemption.

But it’s not without hope. Rather, directors Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot avoid sentimentality and addiction cliches in equal measure, and what’s left is a lean, emotional gut punch delivered by the small cast all turning in top performances.

When an old friend dies of an overdose, Will (Charlie Heaton), himself in recovery from heroin addiction, begins a tumultuous affair with Claire (Catherine Keener), his dead friend’s mother.

The pair are drawn together by grief and guilt, a dynamic that quickly goes from sympathetic to parasitic as the two spurn the numerous more emotionally healthy therapeutic outlets available to process their loss.

Keener and Heaton are electric together, which is no small feat for characters that veer wildly between retreating alone into their own pain while showing a convincing attraction to each other. Keener in particular shines as a woman who goes from casual fatalism to incandescent rage as she comes to terms with losing her son Chris (Jefferson White).

The film flirts with thematic shortcuts, most notably in the form of No Future—a band that Will and Chris played in together. But the more Will and Claire wax philosophical about what brought them to this point in the present, it becomes clear that it’s less nihilistic than it sounds.

The film is populated almost entirely with people who don’t allow themselves the luxury of looking any farther ahead than their open wound of the day. It’s raw and bracing to watch it all unfold, but if nothing else the impact lingers well into the future.

Search for Tomorrow

The Croods: A New Age

by George Wolf

At least two things have happened since we met The Croods seven years ago. One, we’ve forgotten about the Croods, and two, Dreamworks has plotted their return.

A New Age gets the caveman clan back together with some talented new voices and a hipper approach for a sequel that easily ups the fun factor from part one.

The orphaned Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) has become part of pack Crood, which is fine with everyone except papa Grug (Nicolas Cage), who isn’t wild about the teen hormones raging between Guy and Eep (Emma Stone).

The nomadic gang is continuing their search for the elusive “tomorrow” when they stumble onto the Stone Age paradise of Phil and Hope Betterman (Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann, both priceless). The Betterman’s lifestyle puts the “New Age” in this tale, and they hatch a plan to send the barbaric Croods on their way while keeping Guy for their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran).

But a funny thing happens along the way. Check that, many things happen, and plenty of them funny, in a film that nearly gets derailed by the sheer number of characters and convolutions it throws at us.

The new writing team of Kevin Hageman, Dan Hageman and Paul Fisher keeps the adventure consistently madcap with some frequent LOLs (those Punch Monkeys are a riot) and even topical lessons on conservation, individuality and girl power.

Or maybe that should read Granny Power, since it is Gran’s (Cloris Leachman) warrior past that inspires the ladies to don facepaint, take nicknames and crank up a theme song from Haim as they take a stand against some imposing marauders.

Director Joel Crawford – an animation vet – keeps his feature debut fast moving and stylish, drawing performances from his talented cast (which also includes Catherine Keener and Clark Duke) that consistently remind you how important the “acting” can be in voice acting.

By the time Tenacious D drops in to see what condition the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” is in, the whole affair starts to feel like some sort of animated head trip.

Yeah, a little sharper focus wouldn’t hurt, but A New Age delivers the good time you forgot to remember to wonder where it’s been.

Dia de los Muertos

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

by Hope Madden

How’s your summer going?

It may be good, but I bet it’s not Josh Brolin good.

He’s having a one-of-a-kind summer. The kind that follows blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 with the sequel to the film that should have earned him his second Oscar nomination. (It also should have won Benicio Del Toro his second Oscar.)

But can Sicario: Day of the Soldado accomplish as much insightful commentary, intimate drama and visceral action as Denis Villeneuve’s riveting 2015 peek behind the curtains of the drug war?

The first piece of great news: writer Taylor Sheridan returns, scripting another border war with the cartels, this time focused less on drugs, more on smuggling terrorists across to the US.

Now for the bad news. Visionary director Villeneuve does not return, nor does legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins. Or Emily Blunt.

Dude, that hurts.

But del Toro and Brolin are back, and they were so fun last time. Brolin’s brash, deceptively easygoing Matt Graver has another mission requiring that he get dirty, which means more work for his favorite operative, played with shadowy precision by del Toro.

Cleveland’s own Isabela Moner joins the cast as a kingpin’s daughter, and for a moment you might think that the hole Blunt left has been filled. Defiant and solitary, Moner’s Isabella Reyes quickly becomes an enigmatic character you long to get to know better.

Unfortunately, we don’t. Equally underused is the great Catherine Keener, playing the administrator who holds Graver’s leash.

Dariusz Wolski is a gifted cinematographer, but he’s no Roger Deakins, whose brutal cinematic lyricism gave Sicario its arresting beauty. That fluidity is missing from the sequel, along with the fierce idealism that so perfectly balanced the cynical nature of the story.

Gone, too, are Graver’s eccentricities. Though Brolin’s performance is strong, the character himself has become little more than the traditional conflicted mercenary.

Likewise, del Toro is given a more ordinary man’s role. Not entirely ordinary, but that enigma that haunted Sicario serves more to keep the story moving forward, his time on screen rarely allowing a glimpse at who he is or, more frustratingly, how he and Moner’s Isabella respond to each other.

It sounds like it’s all bad news, and it’s not. Director Stefano Sollima serves up a fine, edgy piece of action for the summer. It’s just that I’d hoped for more.





Screen Savers

Incredibles 2

by George Wolf

I’m no math whiz, but 2004 seems somewhere close to 14 years ago. You wouldn’t know it from Incredibles 2, where no time has passed. Kicking off right where the original left off, the long-awaited sequel delivers just enough of the same charm to stave off some stale odors.

The super-powered Parr family has been sidelined, along with all the others like them, thanks to the law against superheroes. But when the evil Screenslayer starts cyber-attacking the city, local tycoon Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) and his tech-savvy sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) hatch a plan to get the supers back on the job.

It starts with putting Helen Parr aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) on the trail of Screenslayer, leaving Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) alone to care for baby Jack-Jack, help Dash (Huck Milner) with his homework and Violet (Sarah Vowell) with her first heartbreak.

Brad Bird returns as writer/director, armed with a worthy game plan but not quite enough nerve to swing for the fences.

While the Deavor’s groom Elastigirl for a media makeover, Screenslayer’s plan is to use technology against its users, and to “destroy the people’s trust in it.” Call that incredibly timely, and fertile ground for some Zootopia-style animated bite.

Bird is more interested in exploring the warm family fuzzies. That’s fine, but the “can clueless Dad handle the house while Mom’s at work?” angle feels every bit 14 years old, even more so when you consider the edgy path Bird abandons to chase one so safe and comfortable.

But hey, it’s summer, why so serious?

Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is back in chill mode, the action sequences pop and the animation has the requisite pizazz. I2 is a part 2 that’s easy to enjoy.

Outside of the near-perfect Toy Story franchise, Pixar sequels (much like sequels in general) have often faltered. Incredibles 2 ranks as one of their besteven with all it leaves on the table.

 

 

 

 





A Bittersweet Farewell

by Hope Madden

How bittersweet that the great James Gandolfini goes out on such a high note. The man who may have been the all time best onscreen Mafia boss showed surprising versatility throughout his film career, and this talent is on beautiful display in one of his final performances.

In writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s new indie gem Enough Said, Gandolfini plays Albert, the unlikely yet fitting new suitor in Eva’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) life.

Both are divorced and facing the prospect of empty nests as their daughters head off to college, and together they develop a sweet crush that is a joy to watch as it blossoms.

Disheveled and genuine, Louis-Dreyfus has never been better, and together these veterans best known for their epically impressive television careers sparkle with tender onscreen chemistry.

Holofcener’s made a career of exploring the issues facing privileged, urban dwelling women. While this may seem too trite to tolerate, her laid back style, dialed-down neuroticism and eye for casting tend to balance things out.

Characteristically, Holofcener’s focus in Enough Said is the day to day struggle with intimacy, connection, and the compromise that accompanies a relationship. Still, this film is probably her most mainstream and accessible to date because the problems themselves are more universal.

Expect the loose narrative and slice of life structure, but with Louis-Dreyfus and her infectious chuckle driving the story, everything seems cheerier, more forgivable, and ultimately hopeful.

The film’s conflict feels a little contrived, but Louis-Dreyfus’s comic timing and unadorned performance keep things honest. She’s aided immeasurably by a cast eyeball deep in talent.

The always excellent Catherine Keener and Toni Collette are impressive, of course. Ben Falcone also gets in some good lines, and keep a look out for Toby Huss as Eva’s ex. (He’s The Wiz, and nobody beats him! Seriously, it’s that guy from Seinfeld. You’re welcome.)

Holofcener’s crafted a wise and affectionate look at middle age. Her writing is just as incisive as ever, but this cast finds more heart in the humor – Gandolfini in particular. As he did with all of his best work, he uncovers the vulnerability in the character that makes him human, recognizably flawed and therefore compelling.

That’s right. He could even play the romantic lead. The guy could do anything.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEEJaIjF_Lo