Tag Archives: John C. Reilly

Blood, Sweat and Fears

Stars at Noon

by George Wolf

Just this past summer, Claire Denis explored psychosexual politics with the moving Both Sides of the Blade. Now, she has sex, lies and global politics on her mind, as Stars at Noon examines sweaty intimacies and slippery alliances.

Adapting Denis Johnson’s novel with co-writers Andrew Litvack and Léa Mysius, Denis keeps the Central American setting but shifts the timeline from 1984 to nearly present day. The threat of COVID-19 adds a relatable layer of suspicion to every interaction, in a part of the world where suspicious minds are easy to find.

Margaret Qualley is sensational as Trish, a young woman staying in a low-rent Nicaraguan hotel while working plenty of angles. There isn’t much to back up her claim to be a journalist (despite a late night call to magazine editor John C. Reilly in a wild cameo), and other details about her life are kept brief and ambiguous.

Trish seems to benefit from at least a couple friends in high places, while new friend Daniel (Joe Alwyn delivering some perfectly smoldering mysteriousness) could benefit from at least one person he can trust.

Daniel says he’s in town from London as an oil company consultant, but Trish is quick to let him know he’s become “a person of interest” with some powerful locals.

But how can this silly American girl know what’s what?

Qualley crafts Trish’s disarming persona beautifully, with a performance that shows a new depth to her talent. While the film’s dialog is often precise and enticing, Qualley makes sure Trish’s non-verbal ques do plenty of talking as well. That gives authenticity to Daniel’s seduction, and the dangerous complications that arise when another mysterious stranger (Benny Safdie) makes Trish a tempting offer.

The humidity of the region feels palpable, laying down a subtle air of oppression that pairs nicely with the more surface level dirty dealings while another wonderful score from Denis favorite Tindersticks works its magic.

Denis is in no rush here, and the narrative can meander through some awkward juggling of tones. But the journey of these characters and their moral posturing is always engaging, and Stars at Noon serves a hypnotic cocktail of intrigue mixed with lust, feminine power and cutthroat colonialism.

Another Fine Mess

Stan & Ollie

by Hope Madden

Wouldn’t it be nutty to peek behind the curtain of one of cinema’s most famous pairs—your Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, Bert and Ernie—only to find that they are exactly as entertaining and likable in person as they are onscreen?

That’s actually part of what makes Stan & Ollie, Jon S. Baird’s loving biopic of the famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, so peculiar a film. Go in expecting demons, divas and drama and you will be disappointed. If you’re looking for a tender image of partnership and friendship struggling to overcome a harsh business, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The inexhaustible talent of John C. Reilly squeezes into a fat suit of Darkest Hour impressiveness as Oliver “Babe” Hardy. The physical transformation awes, but it’s the way the actor mines Hardy’s gentle good nature that impresses even more.

Coogan’s the real surprise. Not only is his resemblance to Stan Laurel almost eerie, but the performance is easily the best dramatic turn of his career.

Both actors, working from a wistful script by Coogan’s Philomena writing partner Jeff Pope, sidestep drama in favor of a kind of resigned camaraderie. Theirs is that well-worn relationship of both love and necessity that comes with decades of familiarity, unspoken grievances and love.

The actors’ chemistry is a fine match for that of the iconic duo, and through the pairing, Baird explores partnership in a more meaningful and less sentimental way than what you’d normally find in a “stars in their declining years” biopic.

The result is an endearing, if slightly underwhelming dramedy, enlivened by Baird’s charming direction. While the film is at its best when Coogan and Reilly quietly grapple with changes facing them, it is at its most enjoyable when art imitates life imitating art. That is, when Stan and Ollie drag a really big trunk up a big flight of stairs, only to let go of it, watch it slide back to the bottom, and do it again.

Like the comedy of Laurel and Hardy, this film is sweet, clever and entirely of another time.

I Can Has Sequel?

Ralph Breaks the Internet

by Christie Robb

Movies with an abundance of pop-culture references run the risk of dating themselves well before they’re released. Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) from 2012’s Wreck-It-Ralph stride directly into that potential minefield.

The film opens as playable racer Princess Vanellope von Schweetz has an existential crisis wondering if there is more to life than looping the same levels of her game, Sugar Rush, every day and drinking root beers with Ralph at Tappers every night. When her hero inadvertently breaks her game, the duo head off into the internet in search of the part they need to fix Sugar Rush and secure Vanellope’s monotonous future at the Litwack Family Fun Center & Arcade.

And, it’s…fine, I guess.

Flocks of blue Twitter birds soar over Google’s skyscraper and Amazon’s distribution center. Folks with signs pop up, baiting others to click on their content. There’s a search bar that’s kind of an actual bar, and there’s a whole Snapchat area off in the distance. But the film has none of the bonkers creativity of Sausage Fest’s imagined grocery store and more or less comes off as designed by an intercompany team of Silicon Valley marketing executives.

A fundamental misunderstanding about how eBay works results in Ralph and Vanellope needing to come up with $27,001 for the part they need. Now it’s a question of how they get rich quick on the Internet.

This leads to Vanellope’s discovery of Slaughter Race, a gritty, open world driving game a la Grand Theft Auto that becomes her happy place. And Ralph becomes needy, clingy, and self-destructive, refusing to let his best friend move on as he hustles for cash by making viral videos on a site called BuzzTube. This part drags as it trots out references to past time wasters like Chewbacca Mom, hot pepper challenges, and screaming goats.

Honestly, easily the best part of the movie is when Vanellope wanders over to the Disney website and hobnobs with the princesses while evading some Stormtroopers. It’s 10 minutes of Disney patting itself on the back for its ownership of a ludicrous amount of intellectual property. But it’s fun, creative, and silly in a way the rest of Ralph Breaks the Internet is not.

There’s a much better movie here that I hope is in the works.

What we get with Ralph is a pretty movie with some great voice acting that’s got enough detail in the background to make you smile. But it’s the kind of amusement you’ll probably forget about soon enough, like planking, Keyboard Cat, or Doge memes.



Twisted Sisters

The Sisters Brothers

by Hope Madden

How many Jacques Audiard films have you seen? You should probably see all of them, including his latest, The Sisters Brothers.

Like his previous films (Rust and Bone, A Prophet, Dheepan), The Sisters Brothers starts out as one film, inserts another fascinating story, and as those two come together the movie unveils its true intent. Unlike Audiard’s other films, The Sisters Brothers is a Western.

We open with Charlie and Eli Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly, respectively), two gunslingers for hire on the job. Their next big gig assigned by The Commodore (Rutger Hauer) will put them on the trail of a prospector in the 1850s West.

Phoenix, who is having a banner year even for him (if you haven’t already seen You Were Never Really Here and Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, please do), plays the loose cannon brother. Making trouble is in his blood—a fact his brother is trying to forget.

Eli longs for something better for himself, something settled and adult. But he is bound to his brother and their friction bristles with the bonds and bondage of family. Reilly’s conflicted tenderness and responsibility mingle with a genuine longing that offers an emotional center for the film.

A few days’ ride ahead of the brothers is the tracker The Commodore hired to assist in the deed. Jake Gyllenhaal’s John Morris is an observer and a loner, a man who believes in his own intellect but is willfully blind to the consequences of his career choice—until he befriends the object of The Commodore’s interest, a chemist with ideals and a compound that seriously simplifies the act of finding gold.

Good-natured chemist Hermann Kermit Warm is played by Riz Ahmed (also having quite a year, back to back this week with his strong turn in the overly criticized Venom). He and Gyllenhaal remind you of the amazing chemistry they shared in 2014’s Nightcrawler. Though their characters couldn’t be more different this time around, the two actors again share a natural rapport that makes you a believer.

Peppered with fascinating images, intriguing side characters and the lonesome beauty that infects the best Westerns, Audiard’s film embraces a genre without bending to expectations. Does it all come down to daddy issues? Yes, but the longing for camaraderie and the quest for redemption has rarely been this charming.

The film meanders intentionally, serving the rugged outdoorsiness required of its genre, but relies on its four leads to craft fascinating characters whose relationships and destinies infect you with a hope often lacking in Westerns.

Once Upon a Time…

Tale of Tales

by Hope Madden

The concept of the fairy tale has been sterilized over the centuries, evolving mainly into capitalistic cautionary tales with overt morals meant to guide our youth toward a socially accepted line of thinking. But that’s not what they were always about. Fairy tales began as oral entertainment benefitting adults, their lurid magic often aimed at critiquing the powerful and finding absurd amusement in the helplessness of the majority.

Director Matteo Garrone returns to these early principles with his moody, atmospheric film based on the work of 16th Century Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basil. The yarns he spins are about narcissistic royals, unwise subjects, dark magic, and human brutality.

His braid of stories possesses a particularly dark and dreamy nature: Salma Hayak wants to have a baby; Vincent Cassel wants to bed a mysterious woman; Toby Jones wants to spend some alone-time with a giant flea.


Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, David Cronenberg’s regular collaborator, brings that elegant chill to certain frames, rarely but effectively punctuated with scenes boasting an especially flamboyant and lush look. The imagery meshes with another brilliant Alexandre Desplat score, aurally and visually supporting Garrone’s absurdist rethinking of the classic fairy tale structure.

Garrone’s cast is uniformly solid. Hayek embraces the haughty nature of her queen, but she allows just enough sympathy to creep into the characterization to create the necessary heartache as her story climaxes. John C. Reilly’s touching tenderness in a small role as a supportive spouse and king is especially wonderful.

Christian and Jonah Lees beguile as magical siblings, Franco Pistoni cuts a wondrously dark image as the film’s necromancer, and Cassel is characteristically excellent.

The real surprises in the film lie in Jones’s tale, though, which begins as something especially weird, then unravels into the darkest and most savage of the stories.

Certain moments lumber along, making the film feel longer than it is. Tale of Tales also comes up mildly lacking when compared to Garrone’s blisteringly brilliant Gomorrah. But the filmmaker deserves credit for bringing a delightful bit of madness, in character and filmmaking, back to the fairy tale.



For Your Queue: Mumblecore Madness

If you’re a fan of the “mumblecore” then A) we’ll just call you “Mumble Cory” and B) a film you might have missed in its limited run is now on DVD, and we’ll pair it with one of the best of the mumblecore genre.

The Comedy is a character study about a character you will instantly hate. Swanson (terrifically played by Tim & Eric’s Tim Heidecker) is a trust-fund brat who spends his days drinking, boating, and embracing every chance to be offensive. Make it past the halfway point, and the ironically-titled film becomes strangely hypnotic.

Director/co-writer Rick Alverson is after a sort of subversive honesty, perhaps even grasping for answers to the types of questions raised whenever another white male goes on a shooting spree.

Hanging out with a guy like Swanson for 90 minutes isn’t easy, but you might be glad you made the effort.

If you’re looking for something slightly more accessible, Cyrus (2010) might the film for you. Still clearly a mumblecore flick (written and directed by the auteurs of the style, Mark and Jay Duplass), the film still follows a relatively well-established story arc and stars actors who actually act. John C. Reilly wants to date Marisa Tomei (who doesn’t?), but her relationship with her adult son (Jonah Hill, in a triumphant performance) is beyond complicated. One profoundly uncomfortable comedy follows.


For Your Queue: It’s like when you had Pac Man Fever, but without the rash

An animated feature with incredibly broad appeal releases to DVD this week, and if you missed Wreck-It Ralph in theaters, now’s a chance to make amends. This video game fantasy has its roots in a tale of misfit friendship that promises to keep every audience member engaged. Vocal talent John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer are perfect in this vivid adventure. Meanwhile, director Rich Moore throws enough color and action at the screen to fascinate the very young, and more than enough video game odes to appeal to the newest generation of parents (and any thirtysomething not yet in that category). This is sly, engaging storytelling at its best.

For a more serious take on video games, don’t miss The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters , director Seth Gordon’s 2007 documentary on the quest to hold the world record high score in Donkey Kong. Gordon (Identity Thief, Horrible Bosses) lets the characters and events speak for themselves and, as the best docs often do, the film unveils a world you may not have known existed. In many ways, The King of Kong is a perfect microcosm of American culture. The fact it’s also funny and truly fascinating makes it nearly impossible to resist.