Tag Archives: Owen Wilson

Bloody Well Write

The French Dispatch

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Who’s ready for Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson-y movie to date?

It feels like we say that every time he releases a new film, but The French Dispatch is absolutely the inimitable auteur at his most Andersonesque.

The French Dispatch is a magazine — a weekly addition to a Kansas newspaper covering the ins and outs of Ennui, France, the town where the periodical is based. The film itself is an anthology, four shorts (four of the stories published in the final edition) held together not by the one character each has in common, editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray), but by Anderson’s giddy admiration for France and The New Yorker.

Boasting everything you’ve come to expect from a Wes Anderson film — meticulous set design, vibrant color, symmetrical composition, elegance and artifice in equal measure, and a massive cast brimming with his own stock ensemble — the film is not one you might mistake for a Scorsese or a Spielberg.

Expect Anderson regulars Tilda Swinton, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Deydoux, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand and newcomers Benicio Del Toro, Timothee Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright. And those are the big roles (although truth be told, no one is on screen all that long).

Blink and you might miss Saoirse Ronin, Willem Dafoe, Henry Winkler, Elisabeth Moss, Ed Norton, Christoph Waltz, Liev Schreiber and Jason Schwartzman.

In the segment filed under the “Taste and Smells” section, Dispatch writer Roebuck Wright (Wright) turns in a sprawling profile on master chef Nescaffier (Steve Park) that – to Howitzer’s chagrin – contains merely one quote from Nescaffier himself. As with the other pieces of the anthology, the many tangents of the piece are explained through Anjelica Huston’s narration, which can’t replace a truly emotional through line and holds the film back from resonating beyond its immaculate construction.

Anderson’s framing of symmetry and motion has never been more tightly controlled, and the film becomes a parade of wonderfully assembled visuals paired with intellectual wordplay and an appropriately spare score from Alexander Desplat.

As a tribute to a lost era of journalism and the indelible writers that drove it, Anderson delivers a fascinating and meticulous exercise boasting impeccable craftsmanship and scattershot moments of wry humor. But the layer of humanity that elevates the writer/director’s most complete films (Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) never makes it from page to screen, and The French Dispatch ultimately earns more respect than feeling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0_hwGWen-I

Back to the Track

Cars 3

by George Wolf

As great as the Disney/Pixar lineup is -and it’s pretty great- the Cars franchise sits low in the batting order, especially after the debacle that was Cars 2 six years ago. Cars 3 rebounds nicely, but still can’t match the meaningful substance of Pixar’s best.

We catch up with legendary race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) in a changing sports world. Suddenly, a new generation of “NextGen” cars, led by rookie sensation Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), is taking over. New team owner Mr. Sterling (Nathan Fillion) brings in a young trainer named Cruz (Cristela Alonzo) to get McQueen adapted to the new technology, but her “senior project” only fuels the feeling that the legend should stay in the garage for good.

Animation vet Brian Fee helms his first feature as director/co-writer with Cars 3, and while the visual style is characteristically luscious, the story that he’s telling never quite rises above the pleasantries of showing kids some talking cars and introducing a new line of tie-in merchandise.

The gags are amusing but seldom funny and the plot takes some turns that may confuse the young ones, but the bigger concern is what’s missing.

As Cruz reveals her true love is not training but racing, and McQueen reflects on his tutelage under Doc (Paul Newman), the movie has the chance to find the poignancy and resonance that has driven Pixar’s most touching classics.

You’ll find it in Lou, the Pixar short the runs before the feature.

Alas, Cars 3 drives on by, satisfied with “believe in yourself” mantras that are greeting card ready, and a first-place trophy for the cheerfully harmless.

Verdict-3-0-Stars

 

 





Cash Money Homies

Masterminds

by George Wolf

Does Masterminds carry the stench of death? Let’s go to the evidence.

This film has been on the shelf for over a year despite impressive comic talent, and that cast may be the only thing keeping the film from straight-to-video status. It finally opens this week, with little fanfare in a crowded field, and features a blooper reel that can’t wait to push the actual film out of the way and get going.

In other words, we doubt you laughed much for the previous 90 minutes, how ’bout some funny outtakes as you leave?

Strong case, counselor, but in the words of master litigator Jules Winfield, “Allow me to retort!”

Masterminds is not horrible.

It’s actually based on the true events of a 1997 bank heist that scored 17 million dollars (2 million of which is still missing). If you think the director of Napoleon Dynamite is an odd choice to direct this story, you’re correct, and Jared Hess delivers a very odd, haphazardly funny movie.

Zach Galifiankis is a trailer-park livin’ armored truck driver engaged to Kate McKinnon (their announcement shots are a riot) but pining for his co-worker Kristin Wiig, who becomes the bait in Owen Wilson’s scheme to get the cash. Once the job is pulled, Zach waits south of the border for Wiig to join him (“I had to get a disguise, I look like Gene Shalit!”), while Wilson dispatches hitman Jason Sudeikis to hunt Zach down in Mexico. Meanwhile FBI agent Leslie Jones looks for clues and a jealous McKinnon attacks Wiig with a giant tube of feminine cream.

Long stretches where you aren’t laughing are suddenly broken up by a randomly uproarious gag (see tube of feminine cream above), and the veteran cast always makes it watchable despite the extreme absurdity. McKinnon steals scenes with facial expressions alone while Zach and Sudeikis engage in battles of improvised strangeness.

So ladies and gentlemen of the jury consider: this film will sink quickly and quietly from the multiplex, then slowly grow once it hits the video and streaming market.

As Zach says, “Brace your boobies,” Masterminds may be a cult favorite in waiting,

Verdict-2-5-Stars

 

 





The Master Returns

Inherent Vice

by Hope Madden

Where Inherent Vice most succeeds is in proving that both Joaquin Phoenix and filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson can do anything.

Phoenix and Anderson collaborated on their 2012 masterpiece The Master, but the spawn of their latest partnership couldn’t be any more different. You know Phoenix – brooding, troubled, powerful – but comedic? Likeable? Sort of weirdly adorable, even?

That’s what you’ll find in this film.

Phoenix plays Larry “Doc” Sportello, an inebriated private detective working LA in 1970. Sweeter than Hunter S. Thompson, edgier than Dude Lebowski, Doc swims in the vaporous haze of every drug he can grab while he muddles through a series of interconnected and apparently non-paying cases.

Though the screen mostly brims with light hearted debauchery, expect a handful of truly powerful, even difficult scenes. Such tonal shifts can become cinematic weaknesses, but in hands like Anderson’s they pull in the darkness that underlies the choice or circumstances that delivers a person to this life on the fringes.

It comes as no surprise that Anderson can work magic where other directors might falter; the man’s a flawless filmmaker. He’s never made a film that was anything shy of brilliant. Even the Coen brothers made a handful of only-adequate films (The Hudsucker Proxy, The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty). Not Anderson.

Not only can he direct, he can cast. Inherent Vice is an ensemble piece boasting a host of memorable if often tiny (and in some cases possibly imaginary) roles. Reese Witherspoon is a stitch as a straight laced assistant DA. She has a soft spot for loopy hippie PI’s, but draws the line at dirty feet.

Equally fun are Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone and Martin Short. (Martin Short!) But Josh Brolin steals the show.

What each is doing can be a bit fuzzy, but then Doc’s usually a bit fuzzy, and therein lies the genius of this film. It opens, hardboiled noir-style, with a dame from the past showing up on this dick’s doormat with a story to peddle and a request to make.

But from there, puzzling out the details and conspiracies becomes as tough for the viewer as it is for the detective because Doc is as high as a kite.

Rather than a true mystery, the film offers a wonderful image of the political, social and cultural tensions of an era without pointing out that intention. It’s nutty, brilliant stuff.

Verdict-4-0-Stars