STRANGE PARADISE: Coffee and Cigarettes

By: Addison Wylie

TIFF Cinematheque opens up a wonderful world of  weird with Strange Paradise: The Cinema of Jim Jarmusch.

The retrospective – which began on July 24 and runs until August 16 – screens Jarmusch’s unique filmography in pristine condition at the TIFF BELL Lightbox.  The scheduling of the program jumps around, so faithful watchers are never following the career in chronological order.  Something tells me this quirk is much like Jarmusch’s unpredictable sensibilities.

Wylie Writes’ coverage begins with a revisiting of the filmmaker’s 2003 unique anthology.

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Coffee and Cigarettes is a film filled with eclectic personalities and kooky discussions among celebrities playing exaggerated versions of themselves or different characters altogether.

For instance, laid back comedian Steven Wright and anxious Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni play heightened variations of themselves as they meet outside a coffee shop and subconsciously learn that while they have erratically different personas, they’re basically the same.  It’s loaded with Wright’s classic disconnected presence and Benigni’s childlike excitement. Continue reading

Hercules

 By: Addison WylieHerculesPoster

The legend of Hercules has been told time after time.  Heck, earlier this year, movie goers even received another Hercules film.  It didn’t do so hot (both with overall reception and with box office receipts), but maybe I’ll give it a watch down the road to wash away the dingy aftertaste Brett Ratner’s Hercules left behind.

When a character as old as Hercules is dusted off and used to make another swords-and-sandels yarn, the fate of quality is left in the storyteller’s hands.  How will they utilize this crowd pleasing hero?  Audiences have seen Hercules represented by many different, beefy actors and they’ve all fought different ghastly creatures.  But aside from the muscles and mythical brutes, there has to be an original voice that holds everything together.

Our main storyteller is Ratner, who takes so many missteps and pedestrian decisions, you’d think the filmmaker was challenging himself to break some kind of record for excessive blandness. Continue reading

Tammy

By: Addison WylieTammyPoster

Tammy is the latest instalment in a series of movies featuring Melissa McCarthy acting inappropriately.  It garnered her an Academy Award nomination in Bridesmaids, it repelled good taste in Identity Thief, and brought in lots of giggles in The Heat.

Now, her rude persuasiveness finds its way in the backwoods.  Tammy, which embraces its hickabilly fog, has McCarthy playing the title role and hitting the road with her blunt, booze gulping grandma (played by Susan Sarandon) on a self-serving mission to get to Niagara Falls.  McCarthy’s real-life husband Ben Falcone (who usually has walk-on cameos in McCarthy vehicles) makes his directorial debut with this unlikely road trip.

Tammy is actually the calmest, warmest character McCarthy has played as of late.  She plays the role with a certain kind of innocence and – dare I say – delicateness that shows Tammy is just trying to fit in.  After getting in a car accident with a deer, getting fired from her job due to tardiness, and finding out her husband has a more sedated relationship on the side, all she wants to do is find a new normal. Continue reading

The Single Moms Club

By: Addison WylieSingle Moms Club poster

When people gang up on Tyler Perry, I’m there to usually defend him.  I might not be saying good things about his movies, but I’ve stood up for him from a business perspective.  He knows his audience well, and that knowledge has led him to be one of the most profitable filmmakers of our time.  But this time, I side with the haters.  And, I can’t see his fan base happily accepting this new film either.

Perry has been outspoken about how he doesn’t deal with racial or gender stereotypes.  I’m sorry, Tyler, but The Single Moms Club has characters that are developed based on how they look on the outside.  They haven’t been built by taking their motivations or passions into consideration.  The Single Moms Club feeds on stereotypes.  Even then, the film can’t get past living on life support.

Five women (Nia Long, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Amy Smart, Zulay Henao, and Cocoa Brown) are all brought together during a parent-teacher conference after their children have been caught acting out bad behaviour.  As punishment to avoid expulsion (and to creakily move the plot forward), the moms have been assigned the duty of arranging a big, shiny bash.  Miraculously enough, they all have been struggling with the same situations involving an absent father, stressful workloads, and miscellaneous evil men.  You’d think they were all in a Tyler Perry movie or something. Continue reading

And So It Goes

By: Addison WylieAndSoItGoes poster

The conception of a movie like And So It Goes doesn’t so much start with an outline or a series of ideas.  It begins with a demand no one has demanded; except for zealous producers who think they know their desired demographic.

The general public likes Michael Douglas and those same patrons are most likely to enjoy watching Diane Keaton.  The brains behind And So It Goes have taken these two variables and have spawned off of that assumption to create a “nice time at the movies”.

And So It Goes doesn’t come off as something that was made to be memorable.  It’s priority is to be a fleeting film that’ll have the audience smiling, lightly giggling and feeling comfortable that shelling out $11 was a good idea.  Or, $22 if you’re the elderly couple the film is pandering to. Continue reading

GMO OMG

By: Addison WylieGMO OMG poster

You often hear the term “edutainment” thrown around. I’ve used it in a few reviews regarding films that keep the audience thrilled while offering plenty of food for thought, but I usually pair the word to learning tools a teacher could use in a grade school homeroom.

Whether you’re watching GMO OMG for fun or using it to study up about genetically modified organisms, Jeremy Seifert’s film is able to keep you stimulated with its good naturedness while providing and delivering a lot of information in an engaging way.

After being inspired by his son’s fixation to seeds as well as his own questioning about what his kids were eating, Seifert headed out to make a film about such topics. The filmmaker brings his family along for the journey as he interviews an array of subjects including streeter interviews of people unknowing of what a GMO actually is. Continue reading

Monty Python’s Last Hurrah is Flawless (mostly)

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By: Addison Wylie

Legendary British comedy masterminds Monty Python gathered at London’s O2 arena and performed their last show of Monty Python Live (mostly) on Sunday, July 20.  There were plenty of animal puns, ridiculous cheekiness, and spam to go around.

Monty Python Live (mostly) opens with a silly song about llamas and leads in with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and show director Eric Idle performing a sketch about reuniting and oneupmanship regarding horribly ludicrous upbringings.  It was a hilarious mixture of wit and sprawling absurdism.

The show carried on with reenactments of classic bits such as “The Lumberjack Song” and “Every Sperm is Sacred”.  Although it was a thrill to revisit these engraved skits, it was interesting to see how theatrics and a chorus line can sometimes make things….too goofy.  I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek choreography and staging, but it really pushed its own limits of exaggeration – I didn’t know that was possible for these Brits. Continue reading

A Master Builder

By: Addison WylieMasterBuilderposter

Last year, I caught a humbling documentary called André Gregory: Before and After Dinner.  Cindy Kleine’s candid look at Gregory’s life and multi-talented career stole my heart and made me very interested in what the artist had to offer for the future.

In the doc, Gregory and his close collaborator Wallace Shawn are working on their latest work – an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder.  You may remember Shawn for his role in The Princess Bride, his recent ball-breaking turn in The Double, or as the voice of Rex the Dinosaur in the Toy Story franchise.  He has one of those faces – and one of those voices – you recognize in an instant.

During these intimate rehearsals featured in the doc, we see a different side to Shawn.  His theatrical presence was refreshing, and showed audiences that the amiable actor can reach deep inside of himself and pull out a different kind of performance. Continue reading

They Came Together

By: Addison WylieTheyCameTogetherposter

I bet if we scoured filmmaker David Wain’s DVD collection, we would find romantic comedies.  A lot of them.  It takes a certain kind of guilty affection to lampoon a genre this immaculately.

That’s what the absurdist has done with fellow writing cohort Michael Showalter.  The two collaborated on the cult hit Wet Hot American Summer – which took the piss out of camp movies – and now they go for the rom-com jugular with the ridiculous and accuratly funny flick They Came Together.  The film certainly benefits from Showalter’s talents since his directorial debut The Baxter is an adorable yet goofball view on the sugary genre.

The difference between Wet Hot American Summer and They Came Together is that the former works by itself as straight-up comedy.  If you didn’t have any knowledge of Meatballs, you could still find humour in the film’s eccentricities.  They Came Together relies more on rom-com cliches and cheesy beats that accompany them.  If this species of date movie isn’t up your alley, a majority of the jokes will either sail over your head or appear to be too campy. Continue reading

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa .5

By: Addison WylieBG.5poster

Jackass brings back everyone’s favourite filthy grandpa in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa .5.  Home viewing audiences get an assortment of pranks that were cut from the original hidden camera escapade as well as ideas that paid off with unsigned release forms or slacked pacing that may have bogged down Bad Grandpa’s storytelling.

Bad Grandpa .5 is an extended behind-the-scenes feature more than anything.  The indestructible Johnny Knoxville as well as director Jeff Tremaine and co-writer/co-star Spike Jonze reminisce about the birth of their full-length film dedicated to Jackass’ “old man bit”.  The men discuss unused pranks and moments that weirded them out, “marks” that supplied golden reactions, and the DIY production that was pulled off quite well for people usually revelling in crotch kicks and bodily fluids.

A lot of math went into Bad Grandpa.  First of all, Knoxville had to adjust to early morning preparation (with make-up effects conceived by Academy-Award nominee Stephen Prouty).  Next up, Knoxville had to figure out how to better define the character of Irving Zisman.  Bad Grandpa .5 does an admirable job at showing the hands-on process to mould the surly senior.  Knoxville himself seems surprised with the character development that began with Irving being an irritable fart looking to get socked, eventually ending with being a rebellious hooligan. Continue reading