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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘WIN IT ALL’

A more lovable loser there may not be than Jake Johnson’s Eddie Garrett in Win It All. The 18th (!!!) feature from mumblecore originator Joe Swanberg, Win It All is the second “official” collaboration between Swanberg and Johnson, who paired up last year to middling success with Digging for Fire after previously working in a director-actor capacity on festival favorite Drinking Buddies. Swanberg’s brand of low-key, grounded comedy-drama has rarely been better than in Win It All as he and Johnson create an emotionally involving character study of a man whose addiction to gambling (and losing) has come back to bite him, just when life has started looking up. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘WHY HIM?’

Oh Bryan Cranston, how far the mighty can fall. The four-time Emmy winning actor and Academy Award nominee rose to stardom putting the meth in method acting as high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin Walter White. But Cranston was not always the one who knocks. Many will remember his stretch as the goofy Hal on 2000s sitcom Malcom in the Middle. Here Cranston was the antithesis of the mean-mugging Heisenberg as an indecisive and immature father figure. He was the Stevia to Mr. White’s ricin; proof in the pudding that Cranston can wear many hats (even if the wool pork pie fedora still fits best.) With his latest comedic endeavor, the mind-numbing Why Him?, some might say that Cranston has returned to his roots. Not that that’s a good thing.   Read More

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SIFF ’16 Capsule Review: ‘DON’T THINK TWICE’

Improv is about following the germ of an idea until it’s reach its most preposterous conclusion and with emotionally honest and rib-tickling seriocomedy Don’t Think Twice, Mike Birbiglia has, like a great improv thread taken to its most radical extreme, tangentially bloomed into himself as a director. His comedy manifesto has always tilted at harvesting truth over triviality and his framing of lifelong relationships splintering and fraternal bonds fracturing creates a heartrending account of the invoice of self-interest as a group of comic friends/collegaues infight to land a gig on an intellectually-bankrupt SNL-type sketch show. Watching Birbiglia drive a wedge between this collection of funny people who feed off each other’s energy for a living makes for powerful, character-driven work and the cast, including a standout Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs, is more than game bringing dramatic gravitas, in addition to comedic jabs aplenty, to the table. (B+)

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Out in Theaters: ‘KEANU’

When Key & Peele premiered in 2012 on Comedy Central, it was as close to an overnight success as any sober TV producer could hope for. The sketch comedy show that covered anything from pop-culture fandom to racial relationships, all with unprecedentedly competent production value, found even more love on YouTube where many of their brief sketches ratcheted up views in the millions. From their  jocular takedown of the Obama administration to nonsensical athlete names to 80s aerobic videos, there were few  rocks left unturned and a remarkable percentage of hits to misses. When the show took its bow in September of 2015, fans were predictably heartbroken to see the righteous comic duo come to an end. If Keanu is proof of one thing and one thing only, it’s at the very essence of Key & Peele will live on so long as Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele  continue to collaborate in any way shape or form. And that my friends is a fact worth celebrating. Read More

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SXSW ’16 Review: ‘KEANU’

When Key & Peele premiered in 2012 on Comedy Central, it was as close to an overnight success as any sober TV producer could hope for. The sketch comedy show that covered anything from pop-culture fandom to racial relationships, all with unprecedentedly competent production value, found even more love on YouTube where many of their brief sketches ratcheted up views in the millions. From their  jocular takedown of the Obama administration to nonsensical athlete names to 80s aerobic videos, there were few  rocks left unturned and a remarkable percentage of hits to misses. When the show took its bow in September of 2015, fans were predictably heartbroken to see the righteous comic duo come to an end. If Keanu is proof of one thing and one thing only, it’s at the very essence of Key & Peele will live on so long as Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele  continue to collaborate in any way shape or form. And that my friends is a fact worth celebrating. Read More

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Out in Theaters: PITCH PERFECT 2

Your enjoyment of Pitch Perfect 2 will be directly correlated to your willingness to endure acapella puns. That is, it’s only acappealing to some. Still with me? Let’s continue. In so much as this Pitch Perfect silliness could be confused with the cloying high school sugar rush that is Glee, the two share poppy musical stylings but are dished up with distinctly different flavors: irritating and irreverent. I’ll let you suss out which is which. Read More