Tag Archives: John C. Reilly

I’ve been lost on Kong: Skull Island

IMG_1710.JPGWell, I survived my movie challenge last year and (partially) as a result it’s been eight months since I’ve worked on this blog.

It’s fitting that my writing perch now has a view of my signed Mike Birbiglia poster (taken from the poster sale by a former coworker at the ol’ Edina Cinema) because my last post here was about Birbiglia’s film “Don’t Think Twice.” He did a Q&A about the film after the July 2016 screening at the Lagoon Cinema and, other than his obviously flawless and brilliant response to the questions I kept telling myself I would ask if I had the courage, I remember the breeze of comedic genius as he walked by my aisle seat to the front of the theater. Maybe I’ll meet him someday, but at the same time it’s enough for me to sit and listen and admire that he can sell out huge theaters and at the same time spend weeks touring to different cities doing Q&A’s and teaching improv classes to local comedians.

I could talk and write about him forever, but I didn’t come back here only to gush about Mike Birbiglia.

BUT I could keep going about him … no? Okay fine.

I know you’re all wondering about the side effects of watching 366 movies in one year (you can see the full list here) and I will say (Captain Obvious – be on alert, I’m about to steal your thunder) it’s too many movies and I think I missed some of the impact they would have had if I watched them at the pace of a normal person.

That said, there’s a good chance I would never get around to some of the classics and obscure films I made it through — “It Happened One Night,” “Charade,” “Prayer of the Rollerboys,” and “The Story of Ricky” come to mind.

This brings to mind another side effect of the challenge, any time someone asks me what my favorite or most memorable films are from last year, the answer always changes.

I should just carry my movie notebook around with me so I can consult the list and make sure I am really delivering the goods. (Dating tip: read from your movie, shopping, pet name, dream vacation, etc. list when things get awkward.)

I do have a movie notebook with my list now, which is another benefit of the challenge, although it makes me wish I had kept one all along so I would have a record of everything I’ve seen; and a tool for those extremely awkward date moments — like when a guy says you have nice veins. Um, so have you seen “Working Girl?”

This year, I only have nine movies to refer to compared to 75 by the end of this day last year when I watched “Upstream Color” and “That Touch of Mink.” Don’t ask me what they’re about.

The last movie I saw was “Kong: Skull Island” — mainly to see my girl Brie Larson and my boy Marc Evan Jackson, who delivers some great one-liners — my favorite being “Oh dear.” I can’t give away the context to that line, but just wait until you see it.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve also watched “Jackie,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Julieta,” “20th Century Women,” “Sing,” “Moonlight,” “Split,” “Baby Mama,” and the aforementioned “Kong: Skull Island.”

I knew very little about the film before seeing it and learned, from another former co-worker at the ol’ Edina Cinema when I stopped in there the other day, that the director– Jordan Vogt-Roberts — also made “The Kings of Summer.”

It’s an indie film that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, in my opinion, and represents a new trend of those directors breaking into the Hollywood blockbuster world with positive results: witty scripts and comedic actors coupled with special effects and action.

Another example: Colin Trevorrow made “Jurassic World” in addition to “Safety Not Guaranteed,” thus bringing together Chris Pratt, Lauren Lapkus and Jake Johnson and some pesky dinosaurs.

“Kong: Skull Island” has the right mix of action, humor (John C. Reilly) and heart and I hope the trend represented by the work of Vogt-Roberts and Trevorrow (who is making a “Jurassic World” sequel) continues.

As for me and my movie-watching challenge plans for the future, I think it’s to be continued …

I’ll see what I want to see and what I’m in the mood for this year (something I couldn’t always do in 2016) and next year might embark on a challenge of a smaller scale than 366 movies.

There are a lot out there I need and want to see and perhaps I’ll be ready to put some lipstick on and watch a ton of movies, again, by 2018.

Until then, I leave you with this reminder from Paul F. Tompkins to see ‘Kong: Skull Island” and one from me to see “The Kings of Summer.”

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Movie Week in Review: Music Royalty

Hey hey.

I’ve decided to take a new approach to this challenge and not blog about every movie right after I see it. I obsess too much about my blog posts, to the point where it may be detrimental to my writing and sanity, so instead I will attempt to write weekly recaps about my movie adventures.

My decision is also based on the fact that I need to spend more time watching movies and get caught up in this race. It hasn’t worked so far, but I think it will help on the weekends when I am watching four or five movies and won’t need to pause to express my critical non-genius on the Internet.

This week in watching ended up being largely focused on films with a connection to music, including Presenting Princess Shaw, Saturday Night Fever, Born to Be Blue and the most classic of them all Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

I missed the opportunity to see the director’s cut of Walk Hard Sunday when my manager screened it at the theater, the trouble being it was at midnight and I was movied-out that day (I wish that wasn’t a thing.) I just rented it on Netflix, the non-director’s cut, but definitely could deal with another hour or so of Dewey Cox this year when I have the time. I did fulfill my original plan for Sunday to watch Born to Be Blue and Walk Hard as a double feature and, while one is a strict biopic drama and the other is a complete farce, they are both brilliant and a perfect pairing.

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Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

I thought Born to Be Blue might be my new Whiplash (which I saw three times in the theater) this year and it did have the same effect of completely taking me into the story of the characters and the music. If I had the time, I know could watch Born to Be Blue over and over.

Born to Be Blue is a true story, depicting Chet Baker in his 40s and later in his career, with Ethan Hawke completely transforming into his character and persona. I didn’t even know I was watching him on screen most of the time, that’s how good he is in this film. Born to Be Blue is clearly a passion project for Hawke and director and writer Robert Budreau. Hawke even wanted to play Baker in a movie by Richard Linklater 20 years ago, but the project didn’t get off the ground. Hawke, in a Village Voice interview, said he’s felt like he’s been thinking about playing Baker in a movie for 20 years. That explains, perhaps, how he completely embodies Baker on screen. I didn’t even know much about Baker in real life but felt the opposite immediately upon seeing Hawke with trumpet in hand and crooning at Birdland in New York City. Hawke performs with a stylistically beautiful film in his background, juggling between color and black and white and different moments in Baker’s later life after he loses his front teeth and has to find a way to play the trumpet again. It seems he was happy in the end, but there was always a looming tone of sadness and heartbreak throughout the film — fitting with the final line by Hawke “Born to Be Blue.” (It doesn’t have spoilers, really, but after you see this film I definitely recommend listening to Hawke’s interview with Marc Maron on WTF.)

Whether you need some cheering up after Born to Be Blue or not, a good follow up is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It presents the perfect parody of music biopics without being too silly and the comedic writing (Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan- also the director) was top-notch in my book. It mostly follows a similar story to that of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line but crosses over with applicable themes that are in most biopics: tragedy , addiction, death, career ups-and-downs, love and of course rising above challenges. Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly), the oldest looking 14-year-old ever, has a quick rise in his career even though he has no sense of smell and goes on spiral that every young pop star with a hit like “Take My Hand” is expected to have. Walk Hard hits all the right notes (sorry had to say it) and has so many good cameos, the scene with The Beatles has to be my favorite, and shows Reilly’s continued comedic genius alongside a cast of Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, Matt Besser, Chris Parnell and so many other Saturday Night Live and improv comedy stars.

To conclude, okay I am nowhere near being done, I also watched Saturday Night Fever (a 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die recommendation) with John Travolta. I was mostly surprised about how dark the film is. It’s more a coming-of-age story about family and friendship with the 1970s Brooklyn disco scene in the background than an exploration of that era and dancing than I thought it was.

Travolta (Tony) spends his days at a paint store and nights at the disco club breaking in his platforms and bell bottoms until he realizes he really wants to dance all the time. He switches his days to the studio practicing with an older woman, Stephanie, to enter a disco competition. Tony smokes while dancing and is always in his skin tight silk shirt and bell bottoms while Stephanie is ready to work in the most uncomfortable-looking leotard. Those moments focus on the dance and bring you into the 1970s, but the film really is more about the characters at transitional moments in their lives they release through breaking out their boogie shoes until it all becomes too much. Gosh that does sound really dark, but it just is that type of film.All-in-all Saturday Night Fever somehow successfully bridges the gap between exploring a significant era in pop culture history and delivering a character-driven drama.

While it’s a documentary that may never have the fame of Saturday Night Fever, Presenting Princess Shaw could be known in that way years from now. I saw the film during the Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival this week followed by a  Q&A and after party with Princess Shaw herself.

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Princess Shaw

Princess Shaw, aka Samantha, grew up in Chicago with a rough childhood and moved to New Orleans as an adult. There she works with patients in nursing home, often singing to them, and at home makes YouTube videos of her songs. Across the world in Israel, Kutiman explores YouTube for musician’s work to make “mashups” between instrumentation and vocals. He comes across Princess Shaw’s work, including one video where she says she is looking for a beat to go with it, and the rest is history. It’s not so much about a “YouTuber” being discovered as it is a connection between two kindred spirits across the world and how success can come in unexpected ways to the most deserving people like Samantha. She graciously answered the audience’s questions after the film and it is evident she just wants to make her music, live her life and doesn’t expect any fame from it. I learned more about that listening to her talk at the after party. My friend and I sat at a big open table only to be bombarded by board members from MSPIFF and I was one seat away from Samantha. She is humble and again gracious in answering the board member’s questions, mostly about what YouTube is and if the story about how she and Kutiman found each other was authentic or “reenacted.” It was a little uncomfortable for me (mostly because of my self-diagnosed mid-30s social anxiety and awkwardness) as more and more board members crowded our table and I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise when I wanted to ask Samantha a question. BUT when they calmed down a bit and took a break to complain about the deejay being too loud I did ask her what her favorite movie is. The answer: Zombieland because of Bill Murray’s cameo role.

I like that. A lot.

It was a honor to be in the presence of Princess Shaw’s music royalty this week, even though she probably wouldn’t describe it that way, she is really a star in life and I admire her. The film will be out soon on Amazon, iTunes and the like and you must see it.

Okay folks, that is all. I did obsess about this blog quite a bit but once a week should be manageable.

“I think a healthy dose of doubt makes you better.”

Gary Oldman on Nerdist.