The Overnight

March 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman
Directed by: Patrick Brice (“Creep”)
Written by: Patrick Brice (“Creep”)

After a chance encounter at a playground, Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) run into Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) who invites them to meet him and his wife at their house for a dinner party. Soon enough, the craziness begins to become amplified and things get weirder as the night goes on. While Alex embraces his newly found personal development, Emily wonders what the actual motive of this seemingly normal couple really is in “The Overnight.”

From a comedy standpoint, “The Overnight” relies heavily on the personalities of its actors, and nobody shines better than Schwartzman. It isn’t far off from many characters he has played, but there’s a certain earnestness and sincerity, even when he is showing hubris, that Schwartzman can pull off perfectly. Scott and Schilling are also good here, especially in the juxtaposition of their reactions to the events taking place. There are certainly some funny moments throughout the film, yet it wouldn’t be quite fair to call it a straight-up comedy.

Where the film gets a little interesting is in its presentation of complacency, normalcy, and being comfortable. While writer/director Patrick Brice plays a lot of things close to the vest, it becomes apparent quite early on that the purpose of this gathering is not quite what it initially seemed. Without giving too much away, the film dips and dives into areas of sexual comfortability, body shame, and yes, swinging. The problem is, every moment feels set up to be shocking. Any time an interesting point is made about how the evening is making people rethink their insecurities or impacting their relationship, it doesn’t have much of a punch because something “crazy” happened before or after it to blunt its impact.

In a lot of ways, “The Overnight” is about stepping out of your comfort zone, albeit in a very adult fashion. The main problem, however, is that Brice seems to rely far too heavily on the film’s eccentricities and catching the viewer off guard by way of shock value. There’s a theme of curiosity that permeates through the film, and it almost feels mirrored in Brice’s approach to see how his audience would react. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good performances or some interesting complexities to the situations at hand, but “The Overnight” never quite extends past the idea that all relationships get boring after a while.

The Overnight was screening at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

November 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman
Directed by: Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”)
Written by: Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”) and Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”)

If it wasn’t for Spike Jonze and his beautifully somber retelling of “Where the Wild Things Are,” Wes Anderson would be the leading vote-getter this year as the director with the most imagination for his whimsical and detail-oriented animation “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Look behind you Pixar; this is a sly one.

Based on the classic Roald Dahl children’s book of the same name, which was published in 1970, Oscar-winner George Clooney (“Syriana”) lends his voice to Mr. Fox, a risk-taking carnivorous and clever newspaper columnist who promises his wife Mrs. Fox (two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep) that he will find another line of work after they are both caught stealing chickens.

Twelve years later, Fox is a family man with a son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), who he really can’t bond with, and a craving to return to his animalistic nature and go on another heist after a long hiatus. Call it a mid-life crisis, but Fox needs an adrenaline rush again. “I’m a wild animal,” is the reason he gives his better half when she finds out he and his loyal friend Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky), an easily- influenced opossum, are scheming to steal from Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, three of the meanest farmers this side of the woods.

But while Fox is off jumping fences and getting ready for their “triple-header master plan,” Ash is left to fend with his own insecure teenage problems. His lack of self-confidence is magnified when his much more talented cousin Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) comes for a visit and is immediately accepted by Fox as a member of his chicken- thieving crew.

Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, however, aren’t going to let one sly little fox outsmart them. Armed with dynamite, bulldozers, and rabid beagles, they go on a full assault against Fox and his family, who inhabit a tree across the field from where the farms sit. The farmers push them farther and farther into the terrain and force them to make an intricate series of paths to stay alive.

Masterfully crafted in a screenplay penned by Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”) and Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”), much of the writing duo’s snarky and sardonic dialogue works charmingly well coming from the mouths of fuzzy creatures who wear corduroy jackets and bandit hats and dance as silly as the Peanuts gang. There’s even a witty ongoing gag throughout the film where Anderson and Baumbach replace any expletives they would have used in one of their grown-up films with the word “cuss.”

Driven by old-fashioned stop motion animation, the style of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” looks like nothing you’ve seen in the past few years. It’s a handmade work-of-art with a wonderfully eccentric and heartfelt message about fathers and sons and what it really means to be “fantastic” when you’re just so different from everyone else. If Anderson has proven anything in his 15-year career, that would be the perfect sentiment.

Funny People

July 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
Directed by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)
Written by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)

It’s been satisfying to watch the evolution of Adam Sandler over the last 15 years. While he started off as a mostly juvenile comedian whose popular five-year stint on “Saturday Night Live” propelled him into films like “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “The Waterboy,” Sandler has grown into this oddly mature actor who is slowly learning that there is a lot more he can offer moviegoers than the jibber-jabber most mainstream fans flock to the theaters to see.

In “Funny People,” Sandler take a step forward in his career by taking a step back to recognize the fresh comedy that director Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”) has brought to Hollywood in the last few years. While Sandler’s best years are still ahead of him, it’s a testament to him as an actor to be receptive to the younger generation of talented showmen who are hungry for the same things he was at twenty-something years old.

Sandler continues working on his dramatic acting chops (although he’s already done a noteworthy job so far with films like “Reign Over Me,” “Spanglish,” and especially “Punch-Drunk Love”) by returning to where it all started for him as a performer back in the 80’s: stand-up comedy.

In “Funny People,” Sandler plays George Simmons, a famous comedic actor who has taken full advantage of his wealth and celebrity, but is still searching for that special something (or someone) to make him truly happy. George has to come to terms with the idea that this will never happen when he is diagnosed with a rare terminal disease and given an eight percent chance to live if he begins to take experimental drugs.

Along with fighting his illness, George starts focusing more on his stand-up routine. He immerses himself in the improv club lifestyle where up-and-comers are hoping to be discovered. When he hears a set by aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), who shares an apartment with a pair of much more successful roommates (Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman), he hires him to write a few jokes for an upcoming corporate gig.

They’re business relationship soon turns more personal when George confides in Ira about his sickness and the regrets he has in life, the most specific being his breakup 11 years ago with Laura (Leslie Mann), the only woman who ever truly loved him.

Just as soon as George begins to accept the fact that his life will soon end, he is hit with an emotional blitz. The experimental drugs have cured him of his disease. “What the fuck do we do now?” George tells Ira as he tries to wrap his head around the miracle he is experiencing.

“Funny People” is a giant leap into something different for Apatow who knows how to combine vulgarities and compassion and have the outcome make sense. Here, he skirts the boundaries of inappropriateness with jokes about male genitalia (Apatow is probably one of the very few writers who can say 100 of these and make them all sound different) but never loses focus of the mature narrative he has crafted.

While the third act doesn’t really match the first part of the film thematically, Apatow attempts to make up for the lack of funny moments and muddled characterizations in the homestretch with an ambitious message about family, which doesn’t come across as totally realistic. Still, the imperfections in parts of the story are shadowed by the wittiness Apatow is known for. “Funny People” may not be his best film of the bunch, but it proves there’s plenty of reason to anticipate his next assertive move in the industry.

Jason Schwartzman – The Darjeeling Limited

June 6, 2007 by  
Filed under Interviews

It’s been nine years since “Rushmore,” and your first and only project with Wes Anderson. How did you two reunite for this one?

Well, since “Rushmore” we’ve been more than in touch. It’s safe to say that we’re kind of best friends. It never seemed to work out [making another film together]. There was a chance…that I was going to be in “The Royal Tenenbaums” but that didn’t work out. It just never worked out to work together. Then this film just came about because Wes just brought it up to me one day. He said, “I got an idea about a movie about three brother on a train to India and I want you to be one of the brothers.” I was so happy. After all these years, coming back together was great. I was just overjoyed and speechless and nervous and all kinds of emotions. I was honored.

You also get your first screenwriting credit for this film. What was it like to be able to sit down with Wes and Roman Coppola and put this script together?

Well, Wes’s first pitch to me was writing a story about three brothers on a train to India. But as writers we wanted to make it as personal as we could. We wanted it almost too personal as terms of scripts go. We wanted to make it honest. [Wes] wanted us to go to India and write the movie there. He wanted us to go on adventures.

What is it about Wes that makes his such an unique voice in this industry?

The reason I enjoy working with him and why I think audiences are interested in his work is because his films are kind of handmade. A lot of people collaborate on them and give their ideas but Wes really is like a cobbler that makes a shoe by hand as opposed to a machine that makes a shoe. Each little choice that you can make, everything is custom-made by Wes. He loves to make these movies. They’re so personal to him. I think that a great feeling to work on something that you love.

Do you think you’d be where you are today without “Rushmore?”

Oh, absolutely not. I wouldn’t be on the phone with you if I hadn’t been in “Rushmore.”

So, I guess you owe a lot to Wes?

I owe my entire contribution to film has been because of Wes. He chose me. Had he not chose me I don’t think I would have gone on [in acting].

Tell me about shooting in India. Did you do anything exciting in between takes and after production?

Oh, yeah. Every day to me was exciting. Every thing I saw was exciting. What I did of a lot in India was pursue and find musical instruments. So I bot like a sitar and some weird Indian drums and drum machines and beat boxes.

That’s cool. Did you learn how to play any of them?

They’re impossible to play. I thought I would get into them but I think I need a good instructor.

So they’ve become just things to decorate the house with?

For now, that’s what they’ve become but hopefully they will become more.

Of course, “The Darjeeling Limited” takes us on a “spiritual journey,” which seems to me like a popular theme over the last few months. We had another film like “Into the Wild” that delves into the same ideas. Personally, have you ever gone on one of these spiritual journey and, if so, what did you learn about yourself?

Oh, yeah. I’m kind of a sentimental type of person so I can make a spiritual journey out of going down to the liquor store. I can like find meaning in just about anything. As long as you keep your eyes open and ask a lot of questions, I think any experience can be heart-opening.

Why is the short film that precedes “Darjeeling” — “Hotel Chevalier” — so important to the feature film?

Well, basically its a companion piece to the feature film. It’s like a prologue in a book. It give you a lot of information about my character and where he is coming from and where he has been. When you see the feature film, you kind of need to see the short film. Without it, I’m sure the feature film will be good. But if you want the answer to what my character is going through, people should see the short film.

Tell me what it was like to work with Natalie Portman?

Well, she is the most amazing little actress I’ve ever partied with. She’s insane. I love her.

You’re playing Ringo Starr in your next movie, “Walk Hard.” Have you met the Beatle and, if not, how do you prepare for a role like this?

Well, I’m only in a couple of minutes. There is a scene where the main character meets the Beatles, but I’m only in it for a second. But I haven’t met him and I’m a little bit nervous. I just hope that he doesn’t get mad. The last thing I need in this world is a God damn Beatle mad at me.