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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘THE MOST HATED WOMAN IN AMERICA’

Stories based on a true story often face the detriment of audiences knowing how it’s all going to end. That will certainly be the case for many with The Most Hated Woman in America, the decade-spanning biopic/thriller focused on controversial public figure Madalyn Murray O’Hair, but it’s people like me (of the millennial variety) who may not remember this striking true story that will benefit most from its true-to-life gnarls. Activist turned founder of the American Atheists organization, O’Hair drew criticism far and wide. When she, her son Jon and granddaughter Robin are kidnapped, her notoriety is so severe, her bonds to even those who share the same blood so crimped and discarded, that no one even bothered looking for her. She remained a hostage for going on two weeks before…well I’ll let the uninitiated discover that for themselves.

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Out in Theaters: ‘MY BLIND BROTHER’

In Sophie Goodhart‘s intentionally lackadaisical comedy My Blind Brother, Nick Kroll sharpens his post-television presence as unambitious deadbeat Bill whose doomed purpose in life is to be a seeing-eye underdog for his egotistical handicapable brother Robbie (Adam Scott). Complications arise when Bill and Robbie have eyes, er feelings, for the same girl, the spirited, wanna-be-do-gooder Rose (Jenny Slate). The result is a well-meaning, socially awkward meditation on the comedy of disability. Following the sacred rule book of Matt and Trey, either everything is fair game or nothing is and this mentality leads My Blind Brothers down some delightfully uncouth corridors. Read More

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SXSW ’16 Review: ‘MY BLIND BROTHER’

In Sophie Goodhart‘s intentionally lackadaisical comedy My Blind Brother, Nick Kroll sharpens his post-television presence as unambitious deadbeat Bill whose doomed purpose in life is to be a seeing-eye underdog for his egotistical handicapable brother Robbie (Adam Scott). Complications arise when Bill and Robbie have eyes, er feelings, for the same girl, the spirited, wanna-be-do-gooder Rose (Jenny Slate). The result is a well-meaning, socially awkward meditation on the comedy of disability. Following the sacred rule book of Matt and Trey, either everything is fair game or nothing is and this mentality leads My Blind Brothers down some delightfully uncouth corridors. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘BLACK MASS’

Black Mass is a stage upon which Johnny Depp has revived his career, and little more. As the film’s malevolent heavy and famed criminal overlord “Whitey” Bulger, Deep is borderline excellent, brooding and prowling around the screen like a silverback gorilla. On the streets, he’s equally guerrilla, taking down his enemies as well as former-confidantes-turned-rat in maelstroms of cold-shelled slugs. And though Deeps is admirable as the callous and cold Jimmy Bulger, the film itself overwhelmingly replicates its star’s unenviable personality traits in its cinematic aura, resulting in a film that’s even more callous and cold than the iconic gangster at its center. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE’

*This is a reprint of our 2015 Sundance review

Leslye Headland arrived on the cinematic scene in a roundabout kind of way. Her debut film Bachelorette divided audiences – Reelview’s James Berardinelli gave it zero stars and labeled it “the worst movie of 2012” (we gave it a soaring review) – though it’s gone on to achieve a quiet cult status. Originally written as a screenplay then adapted for the stage, her raunchy theatrical production was discovered, altered back into movie form and green lit with an inspired cast (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson.) The outcome was a lewd female Hangover bursting with genuine laughs. In 2013, Headland got back on the horse for a new project, one that she just described as “When Harry Met Sally with assholes.” And so came Sleeping With Other People, a satirically formulaic though gravely side-splitting whooper. Read More

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‘KRAMPUS’ Trailer Promises Holiday Frights

The idea of a haunted Christmas is no novelty in 2015 though prior attempts to make a great “evil Santa Claus” movie (see Silent Night, Deadly Night and Santa’s Slay ) have landed with a dull thumpety thump thump. Krampus, with its stand-out indie cast that includes Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman and David Koechner, could just be the first great “Bad Santa” horror movie. Check out the first Krampus trailer below. Read More

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Out in Theaters: HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2

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doesn’t quite make you wish you could go back in time and stop yourself from attending…and then its characters rape each other. Yes, I mean that literally. Puerile, potty-mouthed and purposeless, this five-years-later sequel has the audacity to jettison the whole “likable losers” appeal of the original in favor of three wash-outs crashing parties in the future, solving a hackneyed murder mystery. When John Cusack can’t be bothered to join the reunion party (last year, he had four films score 10% or lower on Rotten Tomatoes), you can assume the settings are off but little can prepare you for how uninspired and piecemeal this never-should-have-happened follow-up is. Set phasers to shun.

In the aftermath of Hot Tub Time Machine, our characters have settled in nicely using their knowledge of future events to make themselves rich and famous. Lou (Rob Corddry) ripped off some Motley Crew songs (renamed *sigh* Motley Lou) before inventing Lougle (yes *sigh* that’s a rip-off of Google) to the tune of someodd billion dollars. Craig Robinson‘s (at least marginally affable) Nick has gone on to rip off countless artists from The Black Eyed Peas to Nirvana and for it is a celebrated artist struggling with identity issues. Well no shit you thieving hack. Cusack, as mentioned, is nowhere to be seen – there’s a brief mention that he penned a popular sci-fi book about Time Lords or whatnot – and we’re lead to believe that Clark Duke‘s baby-faced Jacob just vegged out on the couch and didn’t pursue fame and fortune like his other time traveling cohorts.

Corddry’s Lou is an absolute dick of a human being and a test to withstand. He’s reprehensible in a most off-putting way, so much so that I couldn’t remember if he was this much of a churlish asshole in the original or if his obnoxious, off-putting nature had been ratcheted up to fit the sequel quota of “bigger is better”. Nevertheless, his dickishness leads to his near immediate demise (in a lights-flickering thunderstorm no less) and the trio is forced to travel back in time (more on this soon) to solve his murder before it ever happens.

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It stands to reason that a movie with “hot tub time machine” in the title doesn’t make any sense but the time travel aspects of this film are even more misshapen and whacked out than they once were and our “heroes” wind up in the future – but a future that is still their past. Or something like that. They need to get blackout drunk in order to operate their sudsy time machine, unless screenwriter Josh Heald deems that there’s not enough time to get into another pill-popping, cocaine-eating montage and then it just works with the press of a button. And did I mention that the characters at one point are forced to rape each other? And I don’t mean implied rape, I mean bent-over, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs rape. I just don’t know what to say…

Perhaps the most distracting element of the film is the one that sums it up best: the arrival of the etherial repairman. In the role, Chevy Chase throws down one of the worst cameo appearances of all time, reprising his shtick as a “grandfather time” figure in what might just be the least enthusiastic onscreen appearance of the last decade. You couldn’t have paid him money to make him look less happy to be there. But that pretty much sums up the film in its entirety though: a bunch of people wondering what they’re doing in the midst of a completely defunct comedy. It’s not really a shock that director Steve Pick (Hot Tub Time Machine, About Last Night) falls so hard on his face but it’s nonetheless embarrassing to watch.

Robinson, newcomer Adam Scott and even Corddry give it their all – and do manage to cull some immature laughs with their frequent, obviously improvised riffing – but it’s just far too little in a film that’s far too creatively barren. The actors hack at each other as best they can but their comedy is crude, mean-spirited, cheap and often just sad. In summation: the characters are forced to rape each other.

D+

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Sundance Review: SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE

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Leslye Headland
arrived on the cinematic scene in a roundabout kind of way. Her debut film Bachelorette divided audiences -Reelview’s James Berardinelli gave it zero stars and labeled it “the worst movie of 2012” (we gave it a soaring review) though it’s gone on to achieve a quiet cult status. Originally written as a screenplay then adapted for the stage, her raunchy theatrical production was discovered, altered back into movie form and green lit with an inspired cast (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson.) The outcome was a lewd female Hangover bursting with genuine laughs. In 2013, Headland got back on the horse for a new project, one that she just described as “When Harry Met Sally with assholes.” And so came Sleeping With Other People, a satirically formulaic though gravely side-splitting whooper.

Those fond of indie-leaning contemporary relationship fare will find  Headland malting her sugary goodness in a salty brine. Fans of You’re the Worst will find many parallels to FX’s underrated and desperately sarcastic rom-com. Hence the whole “with assholes” sentiment. Tossing up a 21st century mentality on sexuality, Sleeping With Other People – as its name implies – is about the loose mortality of the modern man as sex predator and the childlike, pissy murkiness of the dating pool. Squaring two flawed-in-a-charming-way rubes against one another, Headland deliberates but decidedly chooses to hem just far enough from the commercially successful star-studded rom coms of box office trumpings. Her vision is much seedier and much more real for it.

Jason Sudeikis stars opposite Alison Brie as a pair of sexually incomplete post-Millennials who lost their virginity to one another 12 years back. The fateful teeth of serendipity strike as they come to head at a sex addicts anonymous meeting. Rather than lunge at each other’s genitals like venereal tigers, they fall into an all-consuming friendship, pledging to stay as Platonic as “Symposium” and totally not bone each other. Complications arise.

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As a womanizer of the most severe degree, Jake (Sudeikis) is a conquistador of panties flagging his way through New York like a Minesweeper pro. But his sights are immovably squared on Lainey (Brie), who herself is struggling from a serious case of unwarranted love addition. Her mark: the perennially boring Matthew Sobvechik (Adam Scott.) Jealousy, that fickle mare, rears her head but Headland knows how to tame it into hilarious and heartwarming shapes.

Lines between friendship and relationship become palpably blurred – a fact that circumstantial BFF Xander (Jason Mantzoukas) is happy to point out – as Jake and Lainey fall deeper into their nonphysical courtship. For all the sex that they’re not having though, the film is gooey with sexual situations and genuinely side-splitting carnal talks. Sudeikis performing a “rude DJ” lesson on a Green Tea bottle is the peak of Headland’s sardonic raunch.
 
Natural chemistry between Brie and Sudeikis makes their jabs  and mounting affection land all the more. As the third act runs, Headland proves a storytelling tease; her will-they-or-won’t-they battleground threatens to come to a standstill as she holds her characters back from one another like rabid dogs on chains. It’s a rare occasion that I find myself rooting for an onscreen romantic comedy couple but Headland turned me to putty in her emotionally manipulative, relationship-calloused hands.

B+

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Sundance Review: THE OVERNIGHT

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Last year, Patrick Brice showed up to SXSW with Creep. Devilishly crafty and expertly focused, it fell in with the usual suspects of found footage horror, even though it was so much more than just another point and shoot, “gotcha!” scare effort. The natural tension that Brice was able to tease out of a scene – the inherent discomfort and overarching ambiguity of character relations – made for a plucky and generously bewitching offering of horror comedy.

Everything that Brice was able to achieve with Creep has been honed and amplified with The Overnight. Equally as reigned in character-wise – aside from a kiddy duo, there are only four principals – and pumped to the brim with laugh out loud comedy, it’s a singularly optimal amalgamation of talent in front of and behind the camera.

Adam Scott (Parks and Recreations) and Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) are recent LA transplants, here from Seattle on untold business. Scott’s Alex is a stay-at-home-dad with a small penis (it’s literally the first thing brought up in the film and yes, we eventually behold his itty bitty guy in full prosthetic glory) while Schilling’s Emily is a working professional. In the midst of concern that they won’t be able to land new friends in the deep blue sea that is Los Angeles, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) arrives on the scene barking about gummy worm health detriments and boasting of his child’s “all vegan” diet. He’s joking but Schwartzman’s native ability to be a stuck-up shmoozer loser could have sold this character the whole way through. In no time, he’s won over the rainy city couple, tempting them into meeting up later that night with promises of a pizza playdate for their boys that’ll doubles as their chance to make new friends.

In the garish fortress that is this mystery couple’s home, Alex and Emily find themselves cautiously seduced by Kurt and Charlotte’s (Judith Godrèche) breezy, Euro charm. The resulting tension courts thriller elements but never really pushes too close to the edge what with all its healthy dousing of eruptive comedy. Over the course of the evening, the players find themselves steadily breaking out of their comfort zones as the libations are poured, divulging deeper and darker secrets in conjunction with the increasing number of bong rips they slug. From Kurt and Charlotte going full frontal for a skinny dip to popping on an explicit (and niche) DVD, Brice flirts with the idea of crossing the line without ever drawing one definitively in the sand. With incriminating evidence piling up, the dial points to a strong likelihood of swinger-dom and Emily and Alex must decide how to proceed in this uncommonly racy situation.

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Brice plays it cool though, creating a rich thematic dichotomy by implying something that might or might not be there. We find ourselves siding with the increasing suspicions of Emily though are equally willing to fall in line with Alex’s assumptions of this just being the “freewheelin’ California lifestyle”. Even more so than in Creep, we can never be certain of who exactly these people are and how roguish their intentions.

To chalk the whole film up to a feeling of uncertainly though misses the forest for the trees as this is through and through a brash, hysterical comedy. It just so happens that it’s that rare comedy with layers.

Each member of the cast fires their comedy shots with dynamic aptitude with Scott breaking new territory as a low-key but totally game fidgeter and Schilling playing incredulous like a weary jailbird. The undersung Godrèche is perfectly difficult to read as Schwartzman in the pole comedy position absolutely steals the show. From his equestrian-like male member (another prosthetic) to his general nonchalant demeanor, he chomps through his scenes like a horse to a bit.

The final result is both articulate and insightful, an uncommonly honest look at adult sexuality and the bargaining chips that married couples exchange. It’s also f*cking hilarious. Working from a much more finalized script (Creep was predominately ad-libbed), Brice proves his talent as a writer as well as a director and if he continues to pound out such accomplished work, he’ll be amongst the foremost directors worth of our anticipation.

A-

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