Guest of Honour (2019)

Guest of Honour
Director: Atom Egoyan
Writer: Atom Egoyan
Cast: David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira, Luke Wilson, Rossif Sutherland, Tennille Read, Gage Munroe, Arsinée Khanjian, Alexandre Bourgeois
Seen on: 18.8.2020

Plot:
Jim (David Thewlis) was an health inspector, diligently working and taking care of his daughter Veronica’s (Laysla De Oliveira) pet rabbit. Veronica was in prison, even though she didn’t do it, and her insistence on remaining in prison threw Jim for a loop. Now he just passed away and Veronica is meeting with Father Greg (Luke Wilson) to discuss funeral arrangements. As she tries to explain her father, their relationship and her own decisions to the Father, she rethinks everything herself.

Guest of Honor has good moments and strong performances, but it is also too convoluted and frankly a little boring.

The film poster showing Jim (David Thewlis) stroking a white rabbit.
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Straight A’s (2013)

Straight A’s
Director: James Cox
Writer: Dave Cole
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin, Luke Wilson, Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Augustin Solis, Tess Harper, Powers Boothe, Christa Campbell
Seen on: 30.4.2020

Plot:
Scott (Ryan Phillippe) is the family screw-up and he hasn’t shown his face at home in a while. But after he has a vision of his dead mother (Tess Harper) telling him to make amends with his brother William (Luke Wilson), his sister-in-law and first love Katherine (Anna Paquin) and his father (Powers Boothe), Scott just shows up at Katherine’s home while William is on a business trip. As he waits for William to return, Scott causes an uproar for Katherine and her kids (Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker) who take a shine to their newly discovered uncle. Scott himself is uneasy with his own plan, drunk all the time and really not all that well.

Straight A’s is so firmly rooting for Scott without really acknowledging his many flaws or interested in him making up for past (and current) transgressions, that it is just annoying. I didn’t care for redeeming Scott, I wanted to strangle him instead. The film can’t work that way.

On a sidenote: in a film that is obviously trying to be smart and deep and that is so firmly rooted in its own privilege, that incorrect apostrophe in the title is annoying as fuck.

The film poster showing Katherine (Anna Paquin), Scott (Ryan Philippe) and William (Luke Wilson). An arrow points from Scott to Katherine with "He loves her", another arrow from Katherine to William with "She's married to his brother".

[SPOILERS]

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All the Bright Places (2020)

All the Bright Places
Director: Brett Haley
Writer: Liz Hannah, Jennifer Niven
Based on: Jennifer Niven‘s novel
Cast: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp, Kelli O’Hara, Luke Wilson, Keegan-Michael Key
Seen on: 6.3.2020

Content Note: suicide, mental illness, domestic violence

Plot:
Finch (Justice Smith) is going for a run one night when he finds Violet (Elle Fanning) standing on the ledge of a bridge. He talks her down, but from then on, he can’t help wanting to help her. When their geography teacher gives them the assignment to explore Indiana’s sights in pairs, Finch sees the opportunity to partner up with Violet. She reluctantly agrees and they start their tours. But Finch, labelled a freak at school, has some problems of his own.

All the Bright Places looks like a “normal” teen romance film, but it goes pretty dark – darker than you expect from the look of it. Which is probably my biggest criticism of it, because other than that, it treats a difficult topic with a lot of care, albeit not always perfectly.

The film poster showing Violet (Elle Fanning) and Finch (Justice Smith) leaning in for a kiss.

[SPOILERS]

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Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Zombieland: Double Tap
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Dave Callaham
Sequel to: Zombieland
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch
Seen on: 27.11.2019

Plot:
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have become a pretty strong unit in the last few years they spent fighting against zombies. They are living in the White House and things have settled. As much as they can settle in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. But both Wichita and Little Rock are getting increasingly more antsy. One morning, they are just gone, leaving Columbus and Tallahassee a note but not much of an explanation. Can their found family find its way back together again?

Zombieland: Double Tap was fun in many ways, but others didn’t sit right with me. I often had fun, but the film doesn’t really come together and it begs the question of whether it wouldn’t have been better to just leave it at the first one.

The film poster showing Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) ready to fight.
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Concussion (2015)

Concussion
Director: Peter Landesman
Writer: Peter Landesman
Based on: Jeanne Marie Laskas‘ article Game Brain
Cast: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Arliss Howard, Mike O’Malley, Eddie Marsan, Hill Harper, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Stephen Moyer, Richard T. Jones, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson
Seen on: 22.2.2016

Plot:
Dr. Bennett Omalu (Will Smith) is a pathologist, specialized in neuropathology. He works in Pittsburgh where he is known for being thorough but maybe also a little strange. One day, a former football player’s body – Mike Webster (David Morse) – comes to Omalu. As he conducts his autopsy, Omalu is more and more intrigued by the case: Webster went from fame and glory to absolute destitution, apparent psychosis and suicide in only a short amount of time. And Omalu suspects that brain damage is the reason for his behavior – damage that he got from playing football. But the NFL is not only not interested in hearing his concerns, they are trying to prevent him from finding out more about it.

Concussion tells an interesting story and it does tell it rather effectively. It is hampered by the fact though that it is a very recent story and that obviously they were trying very hard not to scratch too much at recent wounds.

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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Kathryn Hahn, Fred Armisen, Seth Rogen, Paul F. Tompkins, Danny Trejo, Judd Apatow, Debra McGuire, Jack Black, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins, Jerry Stiller, Vince Vaughn
Seen on: 6.1.2015

Plot:
Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is the star news anchor in San Diego. He and his colleagues Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and Champ Kind (David Koechner) live the good life, filled with parties and women and are, simply put, celebrities. But their world is brought into disarray when Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) arrives on the scene: she’s young, she’s beautiful and she’s a journalist dreaming of becoming a news anchor herself.

Since Anchorman is pretty much a cult classic, I decided to watch it despite my assumption that it probably wouldn’t be my cup of tea. While it is a highly quotable film (that I quoted myself already, too, without realizing where I was quoting from) that even is kinda, sorta about a feminist topic, I was pretty much right about my assumption.

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No, You Kill _Me_!

So, the last entry on the past weekend’s movie escapades. And we really had an interesting mix – good, bad and finally pretty mediocre.

You Kill Me promised to be good. The cast was fine – Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Bill Pullman and Luke Wilson [even if not necessarily first rate], the story seemed interesting and the trailer promised us laughs, and a lot of them. Unfortunately, it did not deliver.

But first things first. The plot. [SPOILERS! Not that there’s much of a surprise.]

It’s simple, really. Frank’s (Kingsley) an assassin for the Polish Snow-Plow Mafia in Buffalo and an alcoholic. After majorly screwing up a job [he falls asleep instead of killing the Irish Mafia boss, who threatens to take out the Polish one – look, sorry, Buffalo isn’t big enough for Italian or Japanese, I guess], he’s sent to San Francisco to sober up.
In San Francisco, the shady real estate agent Dave (Pullman) sets him up with a flat, a job and an AA group and threatens promises to keep an eye on him. The job’s at a funeral parlour, where Frank’s learning to prepare the bodies for the open casket ceremonies. He soon meets Laurel (Léoni) and falls in love with her.
At the AA meeting, Frank meets Tom, who becomes his sponsor and best friend [and is almost never really in the story anymore].
We’re now about half an hour into the movie and suddenly, things stop happening. Frank and Laurel get closer, Frank has some relapses, Tom listens to Frank complain.
And then we’re about 15 minutes before the ending and the Polish Mob boss gets shot back in Buffalo, by the Irish Mob boss, and Frank goes back to avenge him, supported by Laurel, who followed him there. Frank kills the Irish Mob boss, Laurel helps him and they probably live happily ever after.

The End.

[Also, the end of the SPOILERS.]

I have a question: Is anybody else seriously freaked by the size of his ears?

So. The movie wasn’t bad, the acting was fine, the script had funny parts [unfortunately almost all were featured in the trailer already], but this couldn’t change the fact that at 93 minutes runtime, it was one of the longest movies I’ve ever seen. It was boredom, occasionally interrupted by a laugh.

The characters were pretty shallow, the story was, too, the ending was unsatisfying, the whole mafia thing unnecessary…

My recommendation for this would be to watch the trailer and read the quotes on imdb and you’ll have like 90% of the jokes covered. And the rest is pretty dismissable. Or watch it somewhere, where it doesn’t matter if you slowly drift to sleep.

All-but-Irish Men in Ireland and Non-American Cowboys

P.S. I Love You was exactly as it should be: wonderful. Funny and sad and full of gorgeous guys. I mean, I knew Gerard Butler was hot, but then getting Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a bonus was perfect. The only thing a little weird was that it was set in New York. K. said that it’s an Hollywood law that RomComs can only play in NY but honestly, the ending seemed a little strained because of that. I can only assume that Hilary Swank can’t fake an Irish accent. Interestingly enough, neither Gerard Butler nor Jeffrey Dean Morgan are from Ireland (GB: Glasgow and JDM: Seattle). At least for someone like me (non-english-native and never been to Ireland), their Irish accents were very believable.
Richard LaGravenese brought us a perfect chick flick. (This time there’s not too much pathos as in Horse Whisperer or the we’ve-all-seen-that-before effect from Freedom Writers…)
K. will lend me the book tomorrow, can’t wait to read it.

Before I start talking about 3:10 to Yuma, a little disclaimer: I was never a Western fan. I never watched the classics and am not that interested to do so in the future. Therefore, I might lack a little understanding for the genre and the cultere within. But the ending just left me puzzled.
(Warning, spoiler ahead!)
Why the hell did Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) help Dan Evans (Christian Bale) in the end? I mean, you are in the middle of strangling someone then he tells you he’s never been a hero but can’t let his kids know and suddenly you stop and make him a hero? That just doesn’t really make sense to me.
(Spoiler end.)
Maybe, apart from a lack of understanding for Westerns, I also have a severe lack of testosterone to understand them anyway.
K., who has a profound education in Spaghetti-Westerns, told me that it cited a lot of movies (like exploding horses and the such). Therefore, it gets a little more credit but altogether there was too much “huh?” for me.
Things I enjoyed about it: Well, watching Christian Bale (looks and talent) and Russell Crowe (looks and I know there is some talent buried deep down somewhere) is always a treat. Luke Wilson‘s brief appearance (not necessarily because of him but because of the whole scene). Doc Potter (Alan Tudyk‘s character). Ben Foster‘s acting (seriously, this guy knows how to act. 10 minutes in the movie and I already thought: Psycho! Judging from his performance in X-Men: The Last Stand I wouldn’t have thought that possible).
Interesting: Neither Christian Bale nor Russell Crowe are Americans (CB: somewhere in Wales and Russell Crowe: Wellington [New Zealand, damn, I thought he was from Australia… It’s probably good, he’ll never read this blog…]).
The whole thing is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard who I thought I didn’t know and K. mistook for some other writer. A little research shows: not only have I seen movies which were written by him or based on one of his novels (Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Out of Sight) but I actually have a book by him (Mr. Paradise). I can only excuse this by blaming, first, the size of my private library and second, the fact that I haven’t read it yet and third, that I am a bad human being.

I’m sorry that this isn’t very coherent but there are really many things worth noting in this film and it’s one of those which get better the more you think about it. I really enjoyed everything up to the ending, I think it was beautifully done (but James Mangold already proved himself before so that was no suprise) and well played. It didn’t shrink from the violence nor did they have to show everything in all gory details. But I’m no Western fan and this film won’t change my mind. Maybe I will understand the ending someday but until then I’m afraid it’s number three of worst Christian Bale movies (Number 2 being Reign of Fire and Number 1: American Psycho [so much potential – great book, great actor – just going to waste]). I’d only recommend it to male Western fans.