Tag: Steve Carell

MOVIE REVIEW | The Big Short (2015)

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Saints don’t live on Park Avenue.

I only remember a few things about Adam McKay’s 2010 buddy cop comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.  Its opening death scene was hilarious, I don’t think I laughed a single other time after that, and the end credits involved a PowerPoint presentation describing the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.  I guess one underwhelming comedy with that it its core wasn’t enough to get his disgust about the GFC out of his system.  Because now McKay is back, with a much more grown up and direct take on the issue, with The Big Short.

Michael Burry (Christian Bale) isn’t your typical Wall Street trader.  He wears old shorts and t-shirts with no shoes around the office, he listens to classic, thrash metal years Metallica, and he notices things that other traders don’t.  Like the fact that the American property market is on the verge of collapse.  With property being one of the few sure things in the history of US finance, he finds it hard to convince anyone else of his findings.  But one other trader sees the value in Burry’s theory, and soon Jared Vennet (Ryan Gosling) is pursuing the same idea. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Foxcatcher (2014)


“Coach is the father. Coach is a mentor. Coach has great power on athlete’s life.”

When Bennett Miller made Capote, I remember I liked it and thought it was a reasonable enough choice for its Best Picture nomination and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Best Actor win at the Oscars. But it’s not a movie I thought about much after it’s time past, and I’ve never felt the need to see it again. But Miller’s follow up, Moneyball, really made me take notice of the director.

It wasn’t about playing baseball, it wasn’t even about coaching baseball, it was about the back room dealings of managing baseball. That sounds pretty boring, add to that the story’s other a major aspect, maths and stats, and it really is shocking how entertaining Moneyball ended up being. Entertaining enough that when I heard Bennett Miller had a new movie on the way, I was immediately excited for Foxcatcher. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)


“Who the hell is Julius Caesar? You know I don’t follow the NBA!”

I don’t like Anchorman: The legend of Ron Burgundy. Yeah, that’s right, I don’t like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. I don’t just not like it, I also have no idea how it became the favourite it is. Usually, even if I don’t like an immensely popular movie, I can at least see why others do. But the original Anchorman has no real redeeming qualities that make up for its lazy, shitty jokes. I’m not anti Will Ferrell / Adam McKay. I like Talladega Nights, I love Step Brothers. I even thought The Other Guys was kind of interesting.

I watched the first Anchorman a decade ago when it first came out and its initial buzz was unavoidable. Its cast was great (the first sign of the massive comedy career Paul Rudd would go on to build), the story setup showed plenty of potential, and Ferrell is always going to bring more laughs than your average comedic lead. Only, it rarely made me laugh, and the potential fuelled premise quickly turned into a well and truly flogged dead horse. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Way Way Back (2013)

A couple of years ago, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were two improv and comedy actors who’d had bit parts in a few movies and TV shows.  Then they co-wrote The Descendants with Alexander Payne and won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.  It’s amazing what an Academy Award can do, because less than two years later, their screenplay that had been in various stages of development hell for almost a decade not only got green lit, it not only got made, but Faxon and Rash even got to direct The Way Way Back.

Liam James plays Duncan, a 14 year old on his way to spend the summer at the beach with his mother (Toni Collette), her new boyfriend (Steve Carell) and Carell’s daughter.  When they arrive, they meet a perpetually drunk neighbour (Allison Janney) and her kids, as well as Carrell’s old friends, a couple played by Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet.   Duncan hates his new step-family and Carell plays such an asshole, you can understand Duncan’s constant funk.

Until he meets Owen, a fun loving slacker who refuses to grow up, played by Sam Rockwell.  Owen also happens to run the local water park and soon enough employs Duncan.   His life is then split into two, the acceptance, happiness and growing confidence of the water park, and the nightmare of being stuck with the adults who use their holiday as a chance to drink and toke their way back to their younger heydays.

As two dudes approaching forty, Faxon and Rash manage to create world obviously based on their own 80s childhoods, while still setting it in the present day.  Little things like Carell driving a Griswald style family wagon he refers to as a ‘classic’ and Duncan singing along to an REO Speedwagon classic he claims his mum must have put on his iPod give a real 80s feel to their 2013 world.  Rockwell’s character, being around the same age as Faxon and Rash, simply lives like his life and interests haven’t changed since he was 14 himself.  Rockwell is also probably the only actor good enough and likeable enough to make this cliched of a character work.

There are times when you can see the screenplay grasping for the heartstrings and pulling has hard as it can, but the few overly corny moments are far outweighed by the smaller, more natural ones, uplifting and depressing.  The opening scene when Carell rates his possible step son as a 3 out of 10 lets you know not that only is Carell breaking type and going for a real level of extreme ass holery, but also that Duncan isn’t just a typical mopey kid.  He has real reasons to be such a downer, which makes even the hokiest scenes with Rockwell seem OK.

In a lot of ways, The Way Way Back is a collection of clichés and tropes you’ve seen plenty of times before, but it’s also a new twist on most of them.  For every over the top, cornball character or plot point, you get something small, real and not often seen in movies, like the relationship between Duncan and his neighbour (‘romance’ is too strong a word for what happens).  It’s small movie telling a small story, but at least it does it pretty well.

The Way Way Back
Directed By – Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Written By – Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

MOVIE REVIEW | The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Burt Steve Carell is a really funny dude.  Jim Carrey is a really funny dude.  Alan Arkin is a really funny dude.  Even Steve Buscemi can hold his own when it comes to comedy.  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a really almost funny movie.  That’s a little harsh, because this movie did make me laugh out loud more than few times, it’s just that it never really comes to together as anywhere near equal to the sum of its parts.  But those parts are pretty funny in fits and starts.

Carell and Buscemi play Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, childhood friends, now a team of Las Vegas magicians, a combination of David Copperfield and Siegfried and Roy in their 80s and 90s heyday.  The joke is though, this isn’t the 80s or 90s anymore, but Wonderstone and Marvelton are still performing the same act and wearing the same costumes that made them a draw back in the day. It’s an easy laugh, but putting characters in over the top, campy magician outfits from the 80s is just funny.  The problem is, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone relies on those kind of easy gags too often. It doesn’t really build on them or ad anything.  It just kind of says “Here’s Steve Carell in bedazzled crushed velvet and a lion’s main of streaked hair.  You laugh now”.

Jim Carrey is a David Blain-esque street magician and provocateur named Steve Gray who’s new style of stunts and self-mutilation is stealing crowds from the out of date antics of Wonderstone and Marvelton.  I guess Carrey is the villain of the story, but The Incredible Burt Wonderstone uses that in a weird way.  Carell and Carey only share two or three scenes, and they only really interact in one of them (that I can remember).  So it’s hard to get behind the hero when his enemy is so disconnected from the rest of the characters.

Alan Arkin plays Rance Holloway, the magician who was the original inspiration for the childhood versions of Carell and Buscemi to pursue their magical dream.  Present day Wondersotne is hitting rock bottom when he discovers Holloway in a retirement home.  Then it’s comedy redemption arc business as usual as the mentor reminds the hero why he loved magic in the first place.  The clichés aren’t so bad though, when outweighed by some vintage Alan Arkin awesomeness.

Also, Olivia Wilde is in it.  That sentence might actually give her character more depth than the movie does.

The major redeeming quality of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is its anything-for-a-laugh attitude.  While something like Now You See Me tries to make magicians cool, edgy and dangerous, Wonderstone realises all things magician are actually pretty goofy.  There’s nothing cool about David Copperfield, he’s obviously a huge geek.  Carell, Carrey, Buscemi and Arkin all recognise and embrace the geekiness of their characters and milk it for every laugh they can.  Which is good, because the script doesn’t have many.  Anything funny about this movie comes down to the actors and their performances, not the screenplay.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Directed By – Don Scardino
Written By – Jonathan M Goldstein, John Francis Daley