Tag Archives: John Lithgow

Like There’s No Tomorrow

The Tomorrow Man

by Rachel Willis

I’ve never understood people who prepare for the end of the world: those who stockpile supplies or buy secret caves in the wilderness (I knew a woman) to survive nuclear war or the zombie apocalypse. I’ve always thought if the world ended in some horrible way, I wouldn’t want to stick around. If we’re in a Thunderdome scenario in the future, count me out. 

However, in writer/director Noble Jones’s film, The Tomorrow Man, Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow) is readying himself for the inevitable end of days. Spending his time on online message boards, watching the news, and gathering supplies at the local grocery store, he’s as prepared as one can be. 

Into his well-organized life comes Ronnie (Blythe Danner). Ed immediately thinks he recognizes the signs of a fellow “prepper” and begins an unusual courtship to which Ronnie is receptive. 

The film suffers from an abundance of quirkiness. Jones seems to be trying for a vibe similar to Moonrise Kingdom, but where Wes Anderson wisely chose children to convey the magic of new love, Jones focuses on two elderly adults who act more like children than grown-ups. Watching the two characters connect brings more questions on the wisdom of them living independently than any sweet enjoyment of their budding December/December romance. 

Lithgow is endearing as the over-prepared Ed. Divorced and estranged from his grown son, it’s impossible not to root for Ed as he woos Ronnie. However, Danner seems as lost in her role as her character Ronnie is lost in life.

The supporting roles offer very little to the story, and no one is offered any opportunity to grow. These characters are the same people at the end of the film as they were at the beginning. Perhaps if Jones spent less time telling us about all of the characters’ various foibles, we’d get a meatier story. 

There are a few comedic moments, but not nearly enough to balance the tedium of watching two peculiar people try to build a relationship. Everything about that relationship, like the film’s idiosyncrasies, feels forced. It’s unfortunate when we’ve seen the formula work before. 

Sadly, The Tomorrow Man tries too hard to be something it’s not. 

Sometimes, Reboots Are Better

Pet Sematary

by Hope Madden

There is a lot of love out there for Mary Lambert’s 1989 hit Pet Sematary.

Why, again? Was it the wooden lead performances? The adorably sinister villain? Massive Headwound Harry? Come on—there was a lot wrong with that movie and only two things were really right: The Ramones and Zelda.

Zelda was creepy AF.

Fear not! Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) were obviously also affected by Zelda because she (Alyssa Levine) delivers again. On all other items, the directing duo improve.

Except The Ramones, but they are here in spirit.

Jason Clarke leads things as Louis, big city doc transplanted to quiet, rural Maine. Apparently he and his family—Rachel (Amy Seimetz), Ellie (Jeté Laurence), Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) and Church the Cat—didn’t ask a lot of questions about that 80-acre lot they bought. Lotta nasty stuff out back.

John Lithgow takes over for the tough to replace Fred Gwynne and his over-the-top Mainer accent. Lithgow’s more subdued Grumpy Old Man neighbor falls victim again to the pull of that “sour ground” out back when his beloved little Ellie’s cat gets hit by one of those semis speeding down the nearby road.

The film really tests your ability to suspend disbelief, but it also layers a lot of history and creepiness in tidy fashion. The superior performances alone make the reboot a stronger film, although familiarity means it has to try a little harder to actually scare you.

One help is a change screenwriters Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler make to the story. It’s a big alteration and not everyone will be thrilled, but it limits the laughability once things turn ugly. The film also lessons spiritual guide Pascow’s (Obssa Ahmed) screen time and gives his presence a spookier, less comedic feel. There’s a new ending, too—meaner and more of a gut punch. Nice.

The movie looks good, and Clarke (playing a grieving father for the second time this weekend, after his WWII drama The Aftermath) anchors the events with a thoughtful, believable performance that helps Pet Sematary overcome some of its more nonsensical moments.

It is not a classic, but it delivers the goods.

I still missed The Ramones.





Who’s Yer Granddaddy?

Daddy’s Home 2

by George Wolf

It’s weeks from Thanksgiving, but already the hot toy this season seems to be the onscreen Christmas countdown, marking off time until the big day.

We saw it just last week, to disastrous results, in A Bad Mom’s Christmas, and now Daddy’s Home 2 arrives carrying stockings with slightly better surprises inside.

By now, macho Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and sensitive Brad (Will Ferrell) have settled into a comfortable “co-Daddy” arrangement with their blended families, so much so that they’re planning one big blendy Christmas this year. The kids won’t have to run from place to place. It’ll be great, right?

Enter Dusty’s mas macho dad (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s uber sensitive pop (John Lithgow), and we’re all headed through the woods to a luxurious mountain cabin for some contrived, snow-covered shenanigans boasting rampant ridiculousness and only scattershot payoffs.

Writer/director Sean Anders returns from the first film with the standard playbook for lazy comedies: a series of zany skits loosely connected with little regard for logic or continuity. We’re prodded to laugh at Brad’s suitcase being left at home, and then again when Brad has to wear a women’s bathrobe since he has no clothes of his own!

Moving on, Brad has an endless supply of wardrobe changes the remainder of the film.

Anders’s resume features solid comedic work (She’s Out of My League, Hot Tub Time Machine, We’re the Millers and Horrible Bosses 2), but also embarrassments (Dumb and Dumber To, That’s My Boy). DH2 can manage only a few sequences that recall his creative peaks.

A fight over the cabin thermostat leads to some inspired laughs, as does Brad’s attempt to prepare a young boy for life in the friend zone, and Ferrell’s natural comedic gifts are able to squeeze a chuckle or two from Brad’s constant attempts to prove his parental worth.

With the additions of Gibson and John Cena (as the ex of Dusty’s girlfriend) the sequel ups the ante on the crises of masculinity that anchored the first film. The female characters are still afterthoughts, and some of Gibson’s antics (considering his rep and the current revelations coming out of Hollywood) seem awkwardly ill-timed.

By the time a completely over-the top-production of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (“I love that song! I play that song in August!”) is happening, Daddy’s Home 2 seems content to aim no higher than the guilty pleasure aisle.





Just Desserts

Beatriz at Dinner

by George Wolf

Have you ever owned the worst car in the parking lot of some fancy event?

Then you’ll immediately identify with Beatriz.

Beatriz is a holistic therapist finishing up a massage at the elegant home of her friend Cathy, when her car won’t start. Cathy (Connie Britton), over the mild objections of her husband Grant (David Warshofsky), invites Beatriz to stay for the dinner party that evening. Alex (Jay Duplass) and Doug (John Lithgow), two of Grant’s business associates, roll up with their wives (Amy Landecker, Chloe Sevigny), and it isn’t long before Beatriz is mistaken for the hired help.

Writer Mike White and director Miguel Arteta, after teaming for Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl, reunite for the first time in fifteen years with a clearly defined purpose.

As the dinner gets increasingly awkward, Doug is revealed as a narcissistic billionaire mogul reveling in the obnoxious ass-kissing of his company. Beatriz, egged on by multiple glasses of wine, confronts him, and suddenly it’s Trump and the resistance taking dessert in the living room.

The comedy is dark and biting, the performances sharp and well-defined. Stumbling only when it trades sly observations for broader speechifying, Beatriz at Dinner is plenty satisfying.

Verdict-3-5-Stars