Posts Tagged ‘steve carrell’

In the post-election landscape of 2016, the Democrats are looking for someone who excites rural voters. They might have found their man. Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) a Wisconsin farmer makes an impassioned speech in a small town’s council meeting, against voter id laws, which will soon be passed by Mayor Braun. (Brent Sexton) The video of the speech goes viral, and draws the attention of Democratic political consultant, Gary Zimmer. (Steve Carell) Zimmer flies to the small town, and convinces Hastings to run for mayor. Soon, Zimmer’s rival, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) is in the same town backing the incumbent mayor. Soon, the race is nationalized, and Hastings has to go to a ritzy New York fundraiser to stay competitive, despite his distaste for the wealthy progressives lined up to give him money. The race gets closer, and finally election day comes, who wins? Jack Hastings, or Mayor Braun?

Irresistible is supposed to be a satire of the current state of politics. It was written and directed by Jon Stewart, so hopes were high that it would be a sly observational satire of politics. But Irresistible is disappointing because it’s an incredibly superficial view of politics, there are mini scandals, and it speaks extensively about the corrosive effect of money in politics, but there’s a condescending tone in both the characters and how the issues are presented. Stewart seems to be preaching to the choir though, meaning the people who watch this movie probably agree with him on the issues he focusses on. The twist in the plot seem like is the height of cynicism, Stewart might think this is a good use of irony, it is not. Most importantly, Irresistible is not funny, there are a few chuckles but, there are wide swaths of this movie with no laughs. The best movie about politics remains The Candidate with Robert Redford as a son of the former California governor who runs for Senate, as a sacrificial lamb, never expecting to win.. Peter Boyle was the political consultant, the movie is smart, funny, and cynical, in ways that Irresistible fails, so watch that, not this.

The acting is average. Steve Carell plays a fish out of water, a city guy trying to live in rural America, and so he’s kind of a cultural snob, looking down his nose at these rural rubes. The problem with Carell’s performance is that he never modulates it or tries to humanize Gary. These Wisconsinites seem pretty nice, and Gary never returns the favor, he’s always looking for an angle to use them. Chris Cooper is good as the laconic farmer, but he only speaks in platitudes, and by the time the viewer finds out about his motives, it’s too late to care. Rose Byrne’s character is even more of a caricature than Carell’s, she only reacts to what Carell does, and she comes into the movie very late. Carell and Byrne have no chemistry, which doesn’t doesn’t help

The direction by Stewart is understated to the point of being invisible. There are cows in the background in one scene, and the cows chewing grass is a metaphor for how slow the pacing is. This is a tedious movie to watch, it clocks in at 1:42, but it seems much longer than that, He doesn’t do anything to tone down the harshness of Carell’s character, or the one-dimensional nature of Byrnes character. Nothing is impressive about this directorial performance.

Irresistible: Resist the temptation to watch.


Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) was a ne’er do-well young man with a drinking problem who hung telephone wire for a living in Wyoming.  His girlfriend Lynne, (Amy Adams) was the one with the smarts and ambition in the family.  She threatened to leave Dick, unless he promised to stop drinking and get his act together, and so he did.  He won his first Congressional race in Wyoming, thanks largely to Lynne, and went on to work as an intern in the Nixon administration under Don Rumsfeld. (Steve Carell) Just before Watergate, Rumsfeld was named Ambassador to NATO, and Cheney went into the private sector.  Unscathed by Watergate, they returned to government in the Ford Administration, Rumsfeld as Chief of Staff, and then Secretary of Defense, and Cheney as Chief of Staff.  Cheney was then Defuse Secretary for HW Bush in 1988, and just when he thought he was done with public service, he got a fateful call from newly elected President George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) in 2001, who wanted him to be his Vice President. Lynne Cheney thinks he should refuse, as the vice presidency is a do-nothing job, but Cheney is seriously mulling over his answer.  Does he take the job?

Vice is an alternately funny, and painful retelling of the life of Richard B. Cheney.  What a viewer thinks  is funny, and what a viewer thinks is painful depends wholly on his/her political point of view. Vice posits a lot of theories about Dick Cheney.  And whether a viewer believes the theories about Cheney’s power and his control over the policies of the Bush administration, and whether one believes all those theories or dismisses them is again viewed from a political prism.  There were things that were amateurish and overdone, like a ubiquitous all-knowing narrator, who seemed to be everyone and no one all at once, like a Greek chorus telling viewers what the writers thought was important.  There were also phony end credits half-way through the movie, for comedic effect, all of which manage to undermine the serious subject matter.  There is one moment that stands out, however and that is Cheney’s final soliloquy, it expresses Cheney’s world view perfectly, and justifies, at least in his own mind, what he did and how he did it.  But the script can’t decide if it’s a tongue-in-cheek satire or a documentary style fictional drama, and that hurts this movie a lot.  If it had decided on a tone, and stuck to it, Vice would have been a much better movie.

The one aspect for this movie that is clear is Christian Bale’s absolute mastery of the role of Dick Cheney.  It is more than an impression, he gets the mannerisms the facial gesticulations, the voice, everything  is perfect, he doesn’t become Dick Cheney, he IS Dick Cheney.  Even the way Bale walks after he amasses all this power, astride the world like a Colossus, he’s the most powerful man in the world and he knows it. The writers also portray Dick Cheney as ruthlessly Machiavellian, and Bale portrays the cold-bloodedness with a Cheshire cat grin.  Amy Adams gives a surprisingly strong performance, Lynne Cheney is not a shrinking violet standing by her man, she actually shapes Dick Cheney to be the man she wants him to be, and Amy Adams sinks her teeth into this meaty role and makes Lynne Cheney a fierce human being. Kudos to the writers, and also Adams for making Lynne Cheney much more interesting than I ever thought she could be.

From the dizzying heights of Christian Bale and Amy Adams, the acting precipitously descends into ham handed mediocrity.  Steve Carell is most guilty of horrendously bad acting.  He plays Don Rumsfeld as as a completely unserious person, and I’ve watched enough press  conferences with Don Rumsfeld and he always struck me as a serious person, not someone who  is used for comedy relief.  Sam Rockwell  does perhaps the best impression of George W Bush I’ve seen so far,  but the writers give him nothing to work with the character is a  dim-witted, hallow party-boy, not interested in governing, and willing to hand over power to Cheney.  This is a total caricature of a man who was our president.  And Tyler Perry was just the first available black actor to play Colin Powell, he brought nothing to the role. Go back to putting on a dress Tyler Perry.

The direction is gimmicky visually, using Cheney’s heart problems as a metaphor, as in black hearted Cheney, the heart of all evil.  The omnipresent narrator is gimmicky too, and totally unnecessary.  Audiences can understand a narrative without it being spoon-fed to them.  The performances by Bale and Adams were outstanding, but Adam McKay, who also wrote the movie, turned this movie into much more of a comedy routine than it should have been.

Vice:  The story of Dick Cheney’s vice grip on power.

The Big Short

Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is the founder of the Scion Hedge Fund.  He notices a trend in mortgage default rates,  based on the explosion of subprime mortgages written by banks. He predicts that subprime lending will cause the housing market to collapse in 2007, and finds a way to bet against the banks.  Burry goes to Goldman Saks and asks them to create a Credit Default Swap, which Burry used as a short selling tool against the impending mortgage crisis. Burry invests 1.3 billion of Scion’s money in shorting the banks. Trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) learns of Burry’s idea and runs against the grain of the rest of the traders in his company by thinking Burry is onto something.

Mark Baum (Steve Carell) becomes interested in the big short when Vennett mistakenly places a call to Baum’s hedge fund companies.  Baum had always been suspicious of the banks and their motives for lending, but the banks’ use of collateralized debt obligations as securities, exacerbates the risk of global financial collapse, and makes Baum eager to short the banks.  Newbie investors Charlie Gellar (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Witrock) pick up a flier from Vennett and are immediately interested in making this transaction, but their hedge fund falls short of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association fiduciary requirement for making such an investment, so they seek the help of Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) a trader, who’s given up the Wall Street rat race, but agrees to help the young investors.  As 2007 approaches, the housing market is still going strong, and the premiums paid by these three sets of investors for shorting the banks continue to mount as does the pressure to dump their short positions. Do they stay with their original positions or succumb to the pressure and sell their Credit Default Swaps?

This is a great film, funny and smart and sharply written.  Best of all, it simplifies the complex financial transactions in an entertaining way so that everyone can understand.  Unbelievably, it is able to find heroes in the carnage of the financial meltdown of 2007, people who had the courage to bet against the banks, and so viewers have someone to root for in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  The ending of the movie is depressing and anger-inducing at the same time, but that is the intent of this complex movie to pull viewers in and then to have them realize the disastrous impact of what will take place. The only quibble is the movie lasts a few scenes too long and should have ended sooner.

The acting is superb.  Bale is nominated for an Oscar as Michael Burry, I think he overdid the Asperger’s Syndrome a bit with Burry, but overall, it was a good performance.  Burry was perhaps the most sympathetic of all the characters, and Bale plays him with the right amount of sensitivity.  The best performance was given by Steve Carell as angry, guilt-ridden hedge fund manager Mark Baum, sporting a bad haircut, and a nasal twang, Carell seems like the antithesis of a hero, but he gives this complex character many sides, one of which is an everyman fighting against the colossus that is the banking industry.  It’s nice to see Ryan Gosling play a relevant role again, he is not exactly a hero, he is more a jerk than anything else, but Gosling makes Vennett likable.  The only clunky performance was Brad Pitt, he tries to disguise himself with weight and a scruffy beard, but he doesn’t put much emotion into the role.  Like 12 Years A Slave, thanks Brad for Producing, stop casting yourself. Nice cameos by Selena Gomez,  Margot Robbie, and Anthony Bourdain.

The director Adam McKay, is mostly known for directing Will Ferrell movies, but does an excellent job of directing this movie, the pacing is good, although it languishes a bit towards the end, and he gets good performances, even though it is not hard to get good performances from a cast like this. This isn’t even the best financial crisis movie made, that honor goes to Inside Job, a 2010 documentary narrated by Matt Damon.

The Big Short:  Long on entertainment.

despicable me 2

Gru (Steve Carell) has given up his life of villainy, and is perfectly happy raising his three girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) Edith (Dana Grier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) it’s Agnes’ birthday and Gru is happily making arrangements to make her birthday a memorable one.  Gru also has a jam and jelly business that he runs out of his basement.  Meanwhile, another Supervillain steals an entire Artic laboratory, the lab made PX41, a transmutation serum. An agent from The Anti-Villain League named Lucy (Kristen Wiig) tries to recruit Gru to catch the villain who’s making the serum.  The AVL found traces of the serum in the local mall.  The AVL thinks one of the mall’s businessmen is the supervillain, they want Gru to find the supervillain in the mall?  Does he accept the mission?

I’d say the first half hour of Despicable Me 2 is funny, but the writers concentrate too much on getting the single Gru paired off, the attempt to make this a romantic comedy really kills off any satire in this movie.  Gru was supposed to be a satire of a Bond villain, giving him kids in the first movie was sweet, giving him a love interest in this movie is distracting.  The movie is strangely violent as well, Lucy uses a lipstick taser, and Gru uses an ice gun and a big gun, filled with jelly.  Hollywood does what it usually does, fills any gaps in story with mindless action sequences.  This is a movie marketed to young kids and they’re being told that guns and tasers are a solution to problems, I find this disconcerting.  I also wonder if the ethnicity of the supervillains had any effect on the worldwide box office.  This movie features too much silly potty humor, too many minions, not enough sensitivity, and too little intelligent humor.

Steve Carell is excellent as Gru, anytime he’s in a scene the movie is tolerable and actually funny, and that’s part of the problem, it seems like he is not in enough of this film.  Kristen Wiig was good in Bridesmaids, but seems to be trying too hard here to be funny, maybe the writing for her wasn’t that good.  Steve Coogan and Russell Brand are largely wasted, as is Ken Jeong.  These are very funny actors, yet they’re not given anything funny to say.  I feel sorry for Benjamin Bratt, he used to be an A lister once upon a time.  No more, not with roles like this.

The movie is awfully slow for a movie that lasts for an hour and a half.  The only good performance is from Carell and maybe the little girl who plays Agnes, but other than those there was nothing that funny about any of the newer characters.  The animation is nothing to write home about either.

Despicable Me 2. Minions maximized, no growth for Gru.


anchorman 2

It is the 1980’s, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone  (Christina Applegate) are now married, and co-anchoring the news in New York.  Legendary new anchor (Mack Tannen) is retiring and Ron thinks he’s going to be chosen to succeed him, but Mack chooses Veronica.  Ron’s oversized ego is shattered.  He ends up at Seaworld, introducing the marine acts.  He meets Freddy Shapp  (Dylan Baker) who has an idea to start a 24-hour news channel with airline magnate, Kench Allenby.  (Josh Lawson) Ron reunites the news team that rocketed him to fame in San Diego.  Sportcaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) is selling fried bats as fried chicken.  Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) is a famous cat photographer,and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) is presumed dead, but shows up at his own funeral.  Ron’s given the graveyard shift, but he has an idea that may revolutionize news, but does it work?

I wanted to love this movie, but a lot of this movie is a re-hash of the first movie.  Ron is an egomaniac, due for a comeuppance, and he gets several. Brick Tamland is the same incredibly dumb character he played in the first movie.  Champ Kind is now an offensive racist. The satire of CNN, and Ted Turner is obvious.  The relationship between Ron and his black female boss mirrors that of Ron and Victoria in the first movie, with Ron embarrassing himself in front of her family.  The problem is very few of the jokes work, and many of them are downright cringeworthy. Ron’s scenes with his son, and new boss just didn’t work.  On top of all that the movie is way too long, one set of scenes had Ron’s son raising a shark as a pet, if that was a Free Willy satire, it didn’t work.  Those scenes should have been removed. The whole movie takes too long to develop and the payoff isn’t worth it.

Will Ferrell plays the same officious boor that he played in the first movie, it was tolerable in the first movie, it is not in this movie. Ferrell has made a career out of playing unapologetic jerks, and it’s wearing thin. Christina Applegate has less to do, and is therefore less funny.  Steve Carell has gone from  one of my favorite comedic actors, to being one of  the most annoying actors in the movies,  I don’t know what Greg Kinnear is doing in this movie, but whatever it is, it’s not funny.  Paul  Rudd is the only person who redeems himself in this movie, and he doesn’t have nearly enough funny lines. There are a bunch of famous cameos in one of the final scenes, but the cameo scene, soon dissolves into unfunny excess.

There is nothing of note about the direction, except for a few wasted special effects and a plethora of scenes that should have ended up on the cutting room floor.

This is yet another sequel that never should have been made.

Anchorman.  Weighed down by too many unfunny jokes.

burt wonderstone

Albert Weinselstein  (Mason Cook, Steve Carrell) is a boy who gets bullied and has an absentee mother.  His life takes a turn for the better when he gets a videotape of famous magician, Rance Holloway. (Alan Arkin) He meets Anthony Mertz (Luke Vanek, Steve Buscemi) in school, and the two devote their lives to magic.  They become the biggest magic act in the country, and they sign a large 10 year deal in Las Vegas with casino magnate, Doug Munny. (James Gandolfini) While Albert and Anthony are getting fat and happy as Burt and Anton, their act is getting stale, and competition is on the horizon in the form of daredevil magician Steve Gray. (Jim Carrey) As Steve gets more popular, Burt and Anton’s crowds start to dwindle.  Burt and Anton try to do a trick in Steve Gray style, and it ends in disaster.  Burt and Anton split up, their assistant, Jane (Olivia Wilde) leaves to become Steve Gray’s assistant.  Can Burt rise back to prominence from the bottom of  the barrel?  Can Burt and Anton repair their friendship and fix the act?

Don’t watch this movie.  The satire is pretty obvious, they are trying to satirize either Seigfried and Roy, or David Copperfield, who is ironically in this movie, and Jim Carrey is obviously trying to satirize David Blaine or Chris Angel.  The problem is the plot has been done before.  A nobody becomes a big star, who gets to full of himself, and gets his comeuppance. It’s been done in The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and The Campaign, both of those are better movies, and deserve your time more than this movie.

The acting is subpar, only Buscemi and Alan Arkin get any laughs al all, and even they only get mild laughs.  Steve Carrell is going through the motions as the passive aggressive jerk that he played in the Office.  The great James Gandolfini is absolutely wasted, and Jim Carrey who has done great movies like The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, reverts back to making faces and mugging for the camera.  Olivia Wilde is nothing more than what she always is, a draw for the teenage boy crowd.  She is not at all plausible as a love interest in this movie. She’s 30 and Carrell is 51, that’s a huge difference.

The writing is dull and predictable, and the direction is not noteworthy. On top of everything else wrong with this movie, there is obvious and shameful product placement.  No movie should ever have product placement.  It’s bad enough we have to sit through ads in the theater, and pay 15 bucks a ticket, we should all demand no product placement in movies.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  Watch the people watching this movie with you disappear.