For this instalment’s introduction, I adapted ever so slightly (or a lot) the words to a children’s song “Yes we have no bananas” …
Yes we have no bananas
We have no bananas today
[But] we have trailers and trailers
Trailers and trailers
And all kinds of trailers, and say
You get the idea …
Three couples head to the desert to help their friend (David Krumholtz) heal after the death of his mother. But when they learn that his idea of healing is asking to sleep with his best friends’ girlfriends — at the same time — his ludicrous request creates fallout amidst the entire group. A hilariously dark comedy about the things we do for friends in need, also starring Gillian Jacobs, Zachary Knighton, Melanie Lynskey, Ahna O’Reilly, and Jason Ritter. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
No doubt your reaction to the plot of this movie was much the same as mine when I first read the synopsis.
He asks his friends to do what-what now?!
The fact that they don’t all pack up, and head home at the very suggestion is proof that not everything is rock solid within this supposedly tightly-knit group of friends, made up of three apparently close (but maybe not so much) couples.
As Brian Tallerico makes clear in his review at Roger Ebert, there are confusing emotional signals aplenty in the not-so-harmonious group:
“Of course, Andrew’s bizarre request sends ripples through the other couples … one of the female partners wants to leave immediately; one wants to help Andrew out. At the same time, Dave asked Zoe to marry him before the trip and she hasn’t responded; never a good sign. Owen is secretly in love with Hannah [Andrew’s girlfriend].”
While he goes on to say that he doesn’t feel that either the premise or its destructive outworking makes much sense or delivers any real emotionally-identifiable payoffs, he does acknowledge that the actors make more of the wafer-thin screenplay than might first be apparent.
Frankly despite some negative reviews, I am still keen to check it out if only to see what sort of people think that a proposal to sleep with each other’s partners as a grief-healing technique has any place in any circle of friends.
The Big Ask follows screenings over the last year or so at various festivals with VOD and limited cinema release in USA from 30 May 2014.
Two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy) leads an all-star cast in a dramatic thriller based on the remarkable true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb. Webb stumbles onto a story which leads to the shady origins of the men who started the crack epidemic on the nation’s streets…and further alleges that the CIA was aware of major dealers who were smuggling cocaine into the U.S., and using the profits to arm rebels fighting in Nicaragua. Despite warnings from drug kingpins and CIA operatives to stop his investigation, Webb keeps digging to uncover a conspiracy with explosive implications. His journey takes him from the prisons of California to the villages of Nicaragua to the highest corridors of power in Washington, D.C. – and draws the kind of attention that threatens not just his career, but his family and his life. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
Ever since I was entranced, unnerved and deeply unsettled by Three Days of the Condor back in the 1970s, a film that reminded everyone including my barely 10 year old self that the Powers That Be are not always, if ever, as squeaky clean as we would like them to be.
In fact as a seeming endless stream of scandals such as Watergate and the Iran/Contra deal have shown, the ideals to which we hold our elected officials, and the apparatus that serves them, are frequently tarnished beyond all recognition.
But given how well these shadowy groups well under the radar, and how practised they are at keeping secrets from the very people who elected them, it’s only through intrepid journalists like Gary Webb, who often place the pursuit of truth ahead of their personal safety, that we have any idea that anything is amiss.
This is why I find these types of movies so engrossing.
Not because I find it particularly good to be reminded that there is such a persistently diseased underbelly to the shiny beast that is democracy but because it inspires me that there are people like Webb that are willing to go to great lengths to uncover the often extraordinarily well-hidden truth.
We owe these men and women a debt of gratitude because as Kill The Messenger reminds us, there is a huge amount at stake.
Kill the Messenger opens in USA in USA on 10 October and UK on 28 November 2014.
Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a good priest who is faced with sinister and troubling circumstances brought about by a mysterious member of his parish. Although he continues to comfort his own fragile daughter (Kelly Reilly) and reach out to help members of his church with their various scurrilous moral – and often comic – problems, he feels sinister and troubling forces closing in, and begins to wonder if he will have the courage to face his own personal Calvary. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
Way back when in simpler times when everyone went to church, and the priest was the moral centre of town life, the idea that anyone would want to kill a priest would have seemed patently absurd.
God’s anointed on earth, they were the ones you went to for consolation, advice, absolution and even just a reassuring hand on a trembling, emotionally-devastated shoulder.
But that was before all the sexual abuse scandals swept the various houses of God, and people began to realise that many , though not of course all, men of the cloth were not the morally-upstanding symbols of religious authority we had been led to believe they were.
There is no suggestion in Calvary that Father James is anything but one of those old-fashioned well-regarded priests of old, even if time and the passage of service to the members of his parish have left them a little jaded and worse for wear, but he is facing a threat from a mysterious, anonymous parishioner who is determined that the Father will pay, and pay dearly, for sins real or imagined.
It may sound grim and gothically dark, and indeed Father James has a lot to do in one short week as he attempts to solve what Screenrant refers to as a “whodunit, or, more accurately, who will do it”, but there are also one-liners and quips aplenty and enough quirkiness from the highly talented cast that the threat of imminent death never seemed so entertaining.
Calvary opens in Australia on 3 July 2014 with release in the USA on 1 August following screenings at Sundance, Berlin and San Francisco film festivals.
Some people have bad days. Henry Altmann (Williams) has one every day. Always unhappy and angry at the world including everyone in it, Henry sits impatiently at the doctor’s office when he is finally seen by Dr. Sharon Gill (Kunis). Sharon, who is enduring her own bad day, reveals that Henry has a brain aneurysm. This news makes Henry even angrier, yelling at Sharon he demands to know how much time he has left. Faced with Henry’s anger and insults, Sharon abruptly tells him he has only 90 minutes. Shocked and reeling by this news, Henry storms out of the office leaving Sharon stunned by what she has just done in a lapse of judgment. As Sharon goes on a city-wide search, Henry struggles with his diagnosis, determined to make amends with everyone he has hurt in his life. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
I am always a little wary of movies that purport to comedically showing someone’s world falling apart.
In my experience, and I will be the first to admit I don’t do black comedies all that well, films like War of the Roses, Office Space and Falling Down, usually end up either depressing as hell or cringe-worthily awful as satire, even well done satire, comes a little too close to home.
I know that’s its intent, and the three movies I have cited each have enthusiastically loyal cult followings, but it never sits entirely comfortably with me.
Even so, and despite a slew of middling reviews – cinenerd at Blog Critics opined that “all Williams does is flounder around in his typical rants filled with vulgarity” while Chris D’souza at Deadbolt rather more hopefully says that “While it does have its flaws, the journey for redemption along with sarcasm is sure to provide you with a unique perspective on dealing with problems in your everyday life” – I am still inclined to The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.
Maybe I am over-sentimentally attached to Robin Williams who recently came alive comedically in the sadly-cancelled TV series The Crazy Ones, or perhaps I enjoy subjecting myself to grim, dark, blackly comic takes on very worst days of people who may or may not have had it coming, but this could be just the movie to reassure me that my currently somewhat ragged-around-the-edges life isn’t so bad after all.
And I might even get to laugh a little, or a lot, too.
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is currently showing in USA with other countries to follow.
Flatmates Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav are three vampires who are just trying to get by in modern society; from paying rent and sticking to the housework roster to trying to get invited in to nightclubs, they’re just like anyone else – except they’re immortal and must feast on human blood.
When their 8000 year-old flatmate Petyr, turns 20-something human hipster Nick, into a vampire, the guys must teach him the ropes and guide him through his new found eternal life. And in return they are forced to learn a thing or two about modern society, fashions, technology, and the internet. But it’s the introduction of Nick’s human friend, Stu, that really changes the vampire’s lives and attitudes towards the ever-changing world around them.
When Stu’s life is threatened, the vamps show us that maybe humans are worth fighting for, and that even though your heart may be cold and dead, it doesn’t mean you can’t feel anything. (synopsis via official site)
I love a brilliantly-realised parody and What We Do in the Shadows, which sounds like the sort of title you would give to a movie about uncovering government corruption or horrible abuses of some kind, is quite frankly one of the best, at least, trailer-wise, in some time.
Taking its comedic cues from Shaun of the Dead, which took the mickey out of the zombie apocalypse with gleeful derangement, What We Do in the Shadows is an hilarious New Zealand-made send up of the current obsession with film noir, vampires and yes even mockumentaries.
Purporting to shine a light – sizzle! ouch! – on the secretive and bloody nocturnal world of vampires, it looks to be having a ball skewering all the usual tropes and cliches we associate with the genre, and doing it in a way that doesn’t generate wry recognition but a sizeable amount of laughs too.
If you never really thought that vampires could make you laugh till your sides hurt, then you probably should go and see this movie.
What We Do in the Shadows screens at the Sydney Film Festival on 15 June 2014 with New Zealand screening the film from 19 June.