From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2011 Review: WIN WIN

Editor’s note: This review was originally written on February 3rd, 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival

Rating: 4.5/5

Writers: Thomas McCarthy (screenplay and story), Joe Tiboni (story)
Director: Thomas McCarthy
CastPaul GiamattiAmy RyanJeffrey TamborAmy RyanMelanie LynskeyBobby Cannavale

Tom McCarthy can do no wrong. He first captured our hearts with his writing/directing debut, THE STATION AGENT. Then he showed the world Richard Jenkins has the full potential to be a leading man in THE VISITOR (for which Jenkins garnered a well-deserved Oscar nod). And now, in 2011, McCarthy is back with his third feature, a high school wrestling movie with a lot of heart, WIN WIN.

WIN WIN is a story of unlikely people entering each other’s lives. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a lawyer by day, high school wresting coach by night. His practice isn’t very successful (he can’t even afford to fix the plumbing), and he’s not at all in shape (being outran in the opening scene gives us this heads up). He decides to take one of his clients into his care after discovering he can get paid weekly for it, and meets his runaway grandson, child wrestling prodigy Kyle Timmons (newcomer Alex Shaffer). Kyle soon starts wrestling on Flaherty’s team and everything around him begins to look promising again, from the wrestling team to family life. Little known fact: WIN WIN was spawned off McCarthy’s real life friendship with a former high school wrestling teammate.

Tom McCarthy knows the dynamics of friendship and family. WIN WIN is a charming story about making the right choices. As Flaherty is teaching Kyle to do the right thing, we learn he’s wrestling troubles of his own. McCarthy gives balances to real life problems with real life solutions. Sometimes good people make bad decisions and almost always they learn and grow from it.

It’s no shock that Giamatti turns out another fine performance in WIN WIN. Again and again, he puts his all in to everything he does, showing the world how powerful one can be with a set of lines. This man can silence a room with his signature droopy facial expressions. He’s an actor’s actor. The Babe Ruth of thespians.

WIN WIN’s character interactions are what, excuse me, win us over. As Jackie Flaherty (the forever wonderful Amy Ryan) is talking to Kyle about new starts in life, she references her Jon Bon Jovi initialed ankle tattoo - a.k.a. a physical reminder of her rebellious stage. This is one of many small, dynamite interactions in WIN WIN that speak so loudly about how effective real communication can be.  When you’re young and feel like the world is against you, it’s nice to know a peer once sat in your spot in life.

Giamatti is aided by Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale. These two very funny actors play Flaherty’s assistant coaches and come so close to completely pulling the mat from under Giamatti’s feet. This is the best (and one of the most unexpected) comedic duos I’ve seen on screen in a very long time. It’s almost as if McCarthy let these two run amok, only telling them to read their lines and spin it how ever the hell they want. If that’s the case, it worked.

WIN WIN makes Tom McCarthy three-for-three. Grabbing the affection from the audience is what he wants, and my dear reader, he can’t lose.


Editor’s note: This review was originally published on January 28, 2011 as a Sundance Film Festival review.

DirectorMichael Rapaport

I’ve been sitting here in front of the computer trying to write this review and I’m at a loss for words. Michael Rapaport made an admirable documentary about A Tribe Called Quest, why can’t I do the same while writing about it? The film critic gods failed to tell me reviewing documentaries would be quite difficult (thanks, jerks!), but I’m going to listen to “The Low End Theory” record, and continue staring at this screen until I gain my writing rhythm.

Every beginning has an end, I suppose. BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST is an unapologetic look at the rise and fall of arguably one one of the most influential hip hop groups of our time, A Tribe Called Quest. After introducing our four members (Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed, and Jarbi White), and how they came together, the focus shifts on the rocky friendship between founders Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. These two have known each other since they were baby boys, so like a family, clashes are bound to happen. Rapaport carefully highlights both positive and negative viewpoints of the feud. Like Biggie Smalls once famously rapped, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” It’s uncertain if the biggest issue regarding the problem is Q-Tip’s ego or Phife’s jealousy, but things eventually go from good to bad, to a complete standstill. Phife has had a lifetime of healthy issues and surgeries, so it made it difficult for him to get out there and perform; I can’t imagine how frustrating that was.

This biggest question for the making of this documentary is, why Michael Rapaport? Documenting a popular group faithfully and accurately during a very sensitive time cannot be easy. Sure, Rapaport’s been around Hollywood for quite some time, but he’s never directed a film. Did Rapaport succeed? With finesse. ATCQ fans will certainly appreciate the 90s old school animation that he uses as the opening credits to the film. From the get-go, we’re on our way to swaying and bobbing our heads as the music and hypnotic visuals play. Rapaport perfectly captures the real heart of ATCQ. Though there may be some very uneasy moments to watch, he paints respectable portraits of each members in the group.

While it’s uncertain if ATCQ will ever get back together and play again, it’s quite certain fans will love and appreciate BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST as their final encore.

Rating: 4.5/5

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: Bobby Miller's TUB

Rating: 9/10

Writer/Director: Bobby Miller
Cast: Eric M. Levy, Megan Raye Manzi

TUB is a short film written and directed by Bobby Miller. Bobby is best known for his online show, The Reel Good Show, which is batshit hilarious (watch the BEST WORST MOVIE episode - it’s top notch). But Bobby is best known to me as one of the most courageous indie filmmakers I’ve ever met. Here’s the synopsis for TUB: a guy (Eric M. Levy) masturbates in his bathtub one night after his girlfriend (Megan Raye Manzi) won’t give him the goods. He wakes up the next morning to see a baby has spawned from the tub’s drain. Yes, you read that right and, yes, shit gets weird.

When I heard there was a short film playing at Sundance about a guy who impregnates his tub, my first thought was, “This sounds gross - I must see it!” I’m glad I stuck with my gut, the film is very effective. Bobby has a unique vision and it’s only a matter of time before everyone takes notice.

If you’re currently at Sundance, you can grab tickets to one of the Shorts Programs that’s screening Bobby’s film HERE. If you’re a festival director, I urge you to get this short to your festival.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: ODDSAC

Rating: 8/10

Director/Editor: Danny Perez
Music: Animal Collective

I’m really not sure where to begin this review. I guess I could start by saying that ODDSAC is a very odd name, but it’s fitting when referring to its creators: director Danny Perez and the widely popular indie band, Animal Collective. Perez has directed the music videos for the group’s singles “Who Could Win a Rabbit?” and “Summertime Clothes” and is also the visualist for the Animal Collective live shows, so if you’ve been to one of the group’s shows, then you know your eyes are in for a rare treat.

After walking out of ODDSAC’s world premiere, here are some of the notes I jotted down: “Will make Tim Burton proud,” “Distorted,” “Mind-fuck,” and “Marshmallow.”

I walked into ODDSAC completely sober, but walked out feeling like I dropped two hits of acid— it’s that trippy. Of course, with this being an art collective video, none of it makes sense and viewers should be 100% okay with that. (really, it plays out like a very long and insane Animal Collective music video). What we get in this film is a series of shorts (sort-of), each with a different song by the band. At one point in the film, it cuts to a boy telling the audience he hates everything but green beans - random, humorous, and completely awesome. There was also a moment in the screening when the film got so intense for my brain, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was still alive.

Here’s a segment description for you - it gets a bit rowdy. Campers are cooking marshmallows by the campfire. But of course, it’s not just a steady shot of John Smith, his wife, and their beautiful kids eating marshmallows while chanting campfire songs. It’s close-ups, quickly edited cinematography that punches you in the face, loud music, and yes, marshmallows eating the campers. Stay Puft making a comeback? One can only hope.

My one (and only) complaint about ODDSAC is the excessive use of strobes. It became a bit extreme at times, and I did have to close my eyes and just listen. Maybe this is what they wanted, since the music is just as likable as the film. Smart move for Perez and the Collective.

In the end, this film is what Animal Collective’s music would look like. I hope this is one of many feature-length films they put together.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Video Interview: Bobby Miller (TUB)

Bobby Miller was one of the most eccentric people I got the pleasure of meeting at this year’s Sundance. He’s funny, he’s polite, and he directed a movie about a guy that impregnates his bathtub. Pretty weird, right? I bet you’re interest has now been sparked.

That’s right folks, TUB is the name of the movie and there is masturbation and a baby spawned from an impregnated tub. I assure you, it’s not all gross-out, it’s actually an intelligent and charismatic film.

Check out the interview after the jump! Also, if you’re on twitter, follow Bobby HERE and follow his short HERE! Weeeeee!

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: HOLY ROLLERS

Rating: 3/5

Writer: Antonio Macia
Director: Kevin Asch
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Q-Tip

If there’s two things that just don’t mix, it’s drugs and religion. These two entities come crashing together in HOLY ROLLERS, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Bartha. Eisenberg plays Sam Gold, a young adult from Brooklyn living in a very strict Orthodox Jewish community. All Sam wants is to make his father happy and marry the girl of his dreams; but in order to do that, he feels he needs to be rich. As Fresh Prince once said, “Life got flipped turned upside down” after his pal Yosef (Justin Bartha) persuades him to deal Ecstacy - you know, the stuff that makes sandpaper feel like cotton.

I always enjoy watching Eisenberg on the big screen. He brings a certain charm to all of his performances that makes whatever he’s in very enjoyable. You wanna feel sorry for him, but you know there’s a man somewhere inside there. In ROLLERS, he does continue his shtick of being the awkward guy, but towards the end of the film, he gains some courage and starts taking a little control of situations. It’s nice seeing a quiet man take charge after being so easily manipulated; and as the film progresses and he gets deeper into the drug world, his appearance becomes less of an Orthodox Jew and more like a street thug.

But as much as I love Eisenberg, Justin Bartha pulled the mat out from under his feet in every scene. Justin’s previous performance was pretty quiet (the missing guy in THE HANGOVER), but in ROLLERS, he plays the most loud-mouthed racist, coked out, quack Jew I’ve ever seen. And no matter what, he’s never seen without his white Nikes, not even in church. Bartha definitely passes as a confident - and at times ballsy - Ecstasy dealer.

One thing about this film that will not leave my brain is its score (composed by Mj Mynarski). There’s a scene where Sam and Yosef are racing on the Brooklyn Bridge towards the camera in slow motion while instrumental music plays over. It’s a beautiful scene, and made me think, “This is the happiest moment in Sam Gold’s life.”

The one and only problem I had with HOLY ROLLERS was the pacing. I found myself getting slightly bored and at times, looking at my watch. When a movie deals with drugs (especially the kind that brings out one’s awesomeness), I should be alert for the film’s entire running time. I’m sure it’s not easy to mesh Orthodox Judaism and Ecstasy (some people may even get offended), but Asch did a pretty good job.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: JACK GOES BOATING


This review was originally published on January 26 as a Sundance review. JACK GOES BOATING is now open in NY and LA, with expansion next week.

Rating: 7.5/10

Writer/Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Thomas McCarthy
Studio: Overture Films

A few days ago marked the world premiere of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s offbeat comedy, JACK GOES BOATING. This feature is also the directorial debut for the Hoff, who already carries quite the impressive acting resume. Before becoming a feature film, JACK GOES BOATING was a 2007 play (that Hoffman also starred in), and was written by Bob Glaudini (who wrote BOATING’s screenplay as well).

In this story of broken - and sometimes clumsy - romance, Hoffman stars as Jack, a limo driver who dreams of better days and better pay. His daily pastimes are hanging out with best friend and fellow limo driver, Clyde (John Ortiz), and jamming to reggae (he’s even given his hair a weak attempt at dreadlocks). Jack wants love, and Jack may have found love when Clyde and his backbiting wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), set him up on a blind date with Lucy’s co-worker, Connie (Amy Ryan- who is best known for her brief stint on “The Office”).

A broken nose on a train ride and a boss (Tom McCarthy) that can’t seem to keep his hands away from her upper torso (it gave me great pleasure to watch Tom play a creepster) has contributed to Connie’s idea that love just isn’t her thing. But this doesn’t stop her from giving Jack a chance. After the date, Connie tells Jack she wants to go boating, so Jack makes a promise to take her boating once winter passes. There’s only one problem (which he fails to mention) - he can’t swim. Additionally, after accidentally signing up to cook for her (besides Mom, nobody’s ever cooked for Connie), Jack goes on an awkward journey to learn how to cook and swim.

Let’s start this off with Hoffman, who never ceases to amaze me with his performances. It’s very clear that this man takes acting very seriously. Normally, Jack and Connie would never be a match, but Philip brings a strange, sad charm to his character. It works and it works well. You don’t feel bad for the guy, but you do want to see him find whatever it is he’s looking for.

Hoffman did a really impressive job balancing comedy and drama. Being a first-time director, I’m sure this isn’t an easy task. There are scenes in the film that BOATING’s audience will laugh at, while simultaneously questioning that laugh. I think we call that “bittersweet.”

The big surprise in this film comes from John Ortiz. Acting next to Hoffman, he could easily have a big shadow cast over him, but Ortiz holds his ground quite well. Clyde is a funny man, but when things begin to spiral out of control and his emotions get the best of him when his love life isn’t exactly how he first imagined, my heart ached for him a little. Love is sometimes a bitch.

JACK GOES BOATING is a pretty touching story about how love can be (often at the same time) awkward, funny, and important.

My First Time in Front of the Camera: REDFORD SENT US

Two years ago marked the first time Team GATW attended the Sundance Film Festival. While we were there, young filmmaker (and now dear friend) Anthony Meadows was in town shooting a documentary about Sundance called REDFORD SENT US. What Meadows did was follow some bloggers around (Devin Faraci, Rudie and Travis fromCriterion Cast, Rusty and myself, and Scott Hutcheson of WAMG) to name a few) in their daily Sundance routine and interviewed us about the festival. He also spent some time with the lovely Katie Aselton, who was in town promoting her directorial debut, THE FREEBIE.

After a year, Meadows has released the film online free for your viewing pleasure. I watched it not too long ago and I must say, Meadows’ style of filmmaking is really impressive. I really wish there was more blogger interaction in the film but what he gives us is worth the viewing; I’m so glad I got to be a part of this. It’s really strange watching myself in this, though, because I’ve lost over 40 pounds since it was shot (my arteries really appreciate it). Who knew bloggers could actually lose weight?

Full feature after the break!


From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK


Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on January 28.

Rating: 4/5

DirectorsRicki Stern and Anne Sundberg

Joan Rivers is a piece of work. At 75, she’s still one of the hardest working comedians today. While doing a roundtable with her yesterday for her new film, JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK, she was asked if she was intimidated by the young and up-and-coming female comedians. She simply responded, “I’m not done yet.” She’s courageous, her stand-up boldly goes where most comedians won’t, and she’s the first to stand up and say plastic surgery is one of the best decisions she’s ever made. There is one thing though that she fears though, and that’s an empty calendar.

In A PIECE OF WORK, filmmakers Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg (THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK) capture Joan’s 75th year of life. It’s interesting, it’s funny, it’s heartfelt, and it’s heartbreaking. In this year, Joan struggles to make money, but she doesn’t give up. Even with younger, funnier, and more talented people snagging jobs she’d easily do, she won’t stop until she gets that last punchline in. She’s doing stand-up at shitty bars (she even makes a joke about a chair seat being duct-taped together) and sells jewelry on infomercials. What happened to the glamorous Joan we’ve all come to love (or hate)?

This delicious documentary did teach me about one of Joan’s most important assets, and that’s her dirty, dirty mouth. She’s one of the most disgusting, gross, and hilarious people I have ever watched on screen. Here’s one of the many quotes she said in the film that absolutely blew my mind - “My vagina farts so loud, my gynecologist has to wear ear plugs.” Holy shit, right? I thought the same thing. The woman has no boundaries.

Jaw-dropping hilarity aside, this documentary admirably recounts the major upsets in Joan’s life. Did you know Johnny Carson discovered Joan, only to blacklist her a few years later? I sure didn’t. Joan’s mouth got so popular on the Carson show that she would randomly host it herself. Then another television station asked her if she wanted her own show. She took it, and was forever banished from NBC. Of course there’s always two sides to a story, and since we’ll never see the other side of that, it’s obvious the banishment boiled down to one thing - competition.

Another depressing moment in Joan’s life that PIECE OF WORK covers is the unfortunate suicide of her late husband, and daughter Melissa’s father, Edgar Rosenberg. Shortly after Joan took on her own show, ratings didn’t do as planned and it was canceled; one of the stress factors that contributed to Rosenberg’s death. This segment is respectful and just focuses on Joan recalling what happened. She tears up and I teared up with her.

In the end, Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg did a classy job capturing one of the most famous divas on TV. From the introduction until the credits, boredom never struck once. See this film and remember, Joan Rivers ain’t going anywhere.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT


Rating: 4/5

Writer: Lisa Cholodenko,
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Cast: Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Mark Ruffalo

Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on February 4, 2010.

In about a month, we might have our very first Oscar-winning female director, Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER). Kathryn didn’t set the trend for women in film but this will, without a doubt, boost how much influence and importance women can be behind the camera. This brings me to this year’s Sundance film festival, which had a wide and diverse number of films made by women.

One of these films is THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (not to be confused with The Who’s 1979 rockumentary), co-written and directed by Sundance Alumna Lisa Cholodenko. The film explores family life between lesbian married couple, Nic and Jules (played by Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, respectively). They have two children together, Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) who were born through artificial insemination. Joni is about to graduate high school and trail off to the place were binge drinking and the walk of shame were made popular: college.

But there’s one thing both kids want to do before she leaves, and that’s meet the the man who donated the sperm that helped conceive them. They secretly meet the man (Mark Ruffalo), and now want him to be a part of their life. But Momma and Momma ain’t too happy with that and confusion ensues.

I want to give a high five to the person who cast Benning and Moore as the couple. I’m not sure whether it was Cholodenko herself, or Liz Dean and Laura Rosenthal (KIDS’ casting directors), but this was one of the best decisions made for the film. The chemistry between the two actresses took me out of my element of “this is just a movie,” and “they’re just acting.” They hold one of the best on-screen romances that I’ve ever seen before. Their humor, anger, and attitudes play off each other extremely well.

The reason why this romance works so well is because it was under the terrific direction of Lisa Cholodenko. No stranger to lesbian love, Cholodenko has directed an episode of  The L Word, and wrote/directed 1998’s HIGH ART, which won Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting award. Cholodenko has a real understanding of how this type of relationship should work (hint: just like everyone else’s). Throughout the film, both Nic and Jules are very strong characters, both of them handle serious situations in different ways, yet both stand their ground just as equally on important, real life topics.

The problems for the teens in the film are some of the same problems we faced when we were growing up. There’s always the bad friend you reluctantly hang out with that your parents have hated since “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Blank, I’m trouble.” At some point in your life, you realize that person was nothing but a piece of shit and you send them packing. That’s one of the problems Laser (yep, he’s real name is Laser) is currently facing in his rebellious years.

This is why THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT works, and works well. We’re shown real life problems in a fictional story that gives us real life solutions. Bravo Lisa, your film is more than all right.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Interview: Joan Rivers and Co-Directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg


Back at Sundance I did a roundtable interview with the crème de la crème of divas, Joan Rivers, who was in town to promote the world premiere of the documentary, JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (my review can be found HERE).  This fabulous documentary tells us two very important things about the lady: first, she’s a survivor; and second, she has, without a doubt, one of the dirtiest mouths to come out of show business. Around the middle of the interview, Rivers was accompanied by co-directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.

I was going to transcribe this interview, but Rivers is a riot and needs to be heard, not read.  Listen to the full 30-minute interview after the break.  This interview was conducted at Sundance with's Katie Hasty!


From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Video Interview: Philip Seymour Hoffman (JACK GOES BOATING)


Editor’s Note: This was originally published on January 28th, 2010.

A few days ago, I sat down with Philip Seymour Hoffman to talk about his new film, which marks his directorial debut, JACK GOES BOATING. In this story of broken – and sometimes clumsy – romance, Hoffman also takes the lead as Jack, a limo driver who dreams of better days and better pay. His daily pastimes are hanging out with best friend and fellow limo driver, Clyde (John Ortiz), and jamming to reggae (he’s even given his hair a weak attempt at dreadlocks). Jack wants love, and Jack may have found love when Clyde and his backbiting wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), set him up on a blind date with Lucy’s co-worker, Connie (Amy Ryan - who is best known for her brief stint on “The Office”).

Philip and I did the interview at the Myspace Cafe. My mood: Happy. Check out the interview after the jump, where we talk about the pressures of being a first-time director and other things JACK GOES BOATING related. Also, my review of the film can be read HERE. Big thanks to our friend, A.J. Meadows, for filming!

Interviewed/Edited by: Chase Whale


From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: BLUE VALENTINE


Rating: 4/5

Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance

There’s two important films I’ve seen at this festival that gave this message: “Love is a motherfucker.” Or for all the sensitive types out there, “Love is tough.” And there’s two facts in life: we’re all going to die, and at some point, we’re all going to fall in love. Whether or not we stay in love, well, that’s another story.


This brings me to my second heartache of the festival, BLUE VALENTINE. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star as married couple Dean and Cindy in a film that captures the few years of their marriage, cross-cutting from when they met to present time. Like (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (but much, much more adult themed), the present just isn’t as fun as the past.

The film opens with the young couple’s daughter, Frankie (Faith Wladyka), searching for her dog, Megan, in a field. She yells for her name, but the dog never responds. She crawls through the doggy door and plops herself into her father’s (Gosling) arms. Ryan Gosling is (as always) sensational, and his chemistry with Wladyka feels so natural. From the moment he appears on screen with her, we know Frankie’s his lifeline. He loves her like crazy. When she doesn’t want oatmeal, he puts her raisins on the table and begins to suck them up. She follows his lead and it’s adorable. When her dog turns up missing and he’s sure she won’t be back, he tells her, “I think she moved to Hollywood to be a movie dog.” It’s funny, and it eases the tension of what was just discovered.

On the other hand, from the first scene Dean and Cindy share together, the audience is shown something’s just not right with the two. It’s fairly obvious when two love birds have tension shared between them, and in this case, it’s a smacked right in our face. We’re not sure of what this tension is, but we know it’s there. It’s very difficult to watch them fall apart, as the scenes of them falling in love are beautiful. My heart warmed up to the couple as Cindy sang to Dean while he played his ukulele on a street corner on their first date. This film captures the rawness of love, and the heartbreak of a fictional relationship that all of us can relate so much to.

Not a lot of people know this, but this film has been ten years in the making. Co-Writer/director Derek Cianfrance finished the first draft in 1998, only to have delay after delay stall production. These delays couldn’t be more than a blessing though, as the two leads he hired could not have been more perfect. Dean and Connie’s chemistry is far too real. When they spend the night together in attempts to repair their broken love, I found myself fidgeting in my seat, waiting and hoping their love gets repaired.

Cianfrance dives deeply into the happiness and heartache a damaged relationship can give you and has created a story that understands how real life romance actually works. It may be painful at times, but folks, that’s real life for you. If you’ve ever been in love, if you’ve ever had your heart broken, see this film.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2011 Review: KABOOM


Rating: 4/5

Writer/directorGregg Araki
CastHaley BennettThomas DekkerJuno TempleJames Duval

KABOOM is filthy. If your eyes have ever been enriched with a Gregg Araki film (THE DOOM GENERATION, NOWHERE, and MYSTERIOUS SKIN to name a few), then you’re in for an explosion of chaos. After walking out of KABOOM, I wanted to take a nice, hot shower to wash off the dirtiness of what my eyeballs just watched, but holy hell I had a blast. KABOOM is 86 minutes of raunch, sex, cults, witches, dirty girl Juno Temple, and, yes, people wearing animal masks - and it’s all so fun.

I don’t know where to begin describing the story. KABOOM opens with college boy Smith (Thomas Dekker) having a dream. He’s walking down a hall, naked, passing two girls he’s never seen before, and it ends with him opening a door (with “19” slapped on it - this is crucial to the story) to a white room with a red garbage dumpster. This dream has been reoccurring for the last five nights and he doesn’t understand what it means. At a party one night, he runs into both girls from that dream. One vomits on him, and the other goes home with his best friend Stella (Haley Bennet). Things then, well, explode into a world of complications.

Araki parodies Hollywood’s most used stereotype. Smith’s roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) is a very good-looking blonde surfer dude who’s dumber than the idea of having Roseanne Barr sing the National Anthem at a baseball game (Google that). He’s not gay (no bros are, right?), but he and his best friend wrestle each other in their briefs while accusing the other of liking boys.  Zylka doesn’t overkill the stereotype, but milks playing the character with everything he’s got.

Juno Temple shows up in the film as a rowdy girl who sleeps with Smith for fun and teaches others how to orally please a girl. She’s rarely seen with clothes on or not having sex with someone, and this is me telling you that I’m not complaining. Temple’s London is a real charmer.

In the first half of the film, we’re watching an Araki film we’re used to. He champions homoeroticism, and his characters live without boundaries or rules. Strange is normal. Everyone sleeps with everyone. Araki beautifies raunch with extreme close-ups, slow motion, vibrant music, and awkward angles of cinematography. The man achieves exactly what he wants. There’s a lot of sex in KABOOM. A lot. Dekker’s Smith isn’t gay, isn’t straight, and isn’t sure what he wants but he’ll sleep with a guy or a girl if they ask.

When Smith’s dream finally makes sense, things get batshit crazy. Our final act strays completely away from what we’re used to from Araki. He is definitely saying something with this film. I agree with myself in saying he’s humorously giving the finger to the cruel critics who bashed his teen angst trilogy (TOTALLY FUCKED UP, THE DOOM GENERATION, NOWHERE) a while back. Or he could be saying “fuck you” to everyone. If you’re a fan of Araki’s previous work or just want to see something really fucked up, KABOOM is your movie.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2011 Review: OUR IDIOT BROTHER


Rating: 4/5

DirectorJesse Peretz
WritersEvgenia PeretzDavid Schisgall
CastPaul RuddElizabeth BanksZooey DeschanelSteve CooganRashida Jones,Adam Scott

Ned (Paul Rudd) is an idiot. He’s also a Mr. Nice Guy, which puts him in a world full of really bad situations. In the beginning of MY IDIOT BROTHER, Ned sells pot to an on-duty uniformed cop. He gets out of jail early on good behavior (won Most Cooperative four months running!) and has an unpleasant surprise waiting for him when  he comes home to his girlfriend - she’s moved on and is keeping his best friend, puppy dog Willie Nelson. Without a job and a home, Ned goes back home to live with his three sisters, accidentally causing chaos with each as he stays with them.

MY IDIOT BROTHER sets up like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Each time Ned stays with a sister, he’s accidentally put in very comically uncomfortable situations, with each becoming more hazardous than the last. With Ned being a hippie, he’s all about trying to do good, and he trusts people far too much which in turn, gets him in a lot of trouble. He’s a dreamer and is completely oblivious to that fact that people sometimes do asshole things. The three sisters (played by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Dechanel, and Emily Mortimer) are afraid of facing truths, but understand the ass-holisms of people, which has made them emotionally dead from the big problems they’re currently facing.

We’ve seen Paul Rudd in plenty of comedies before - ANCHORMAN, WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, and I LOVE YOU, MAN to highlight some of his best - but his long-awaited time to headline has finally coming to full fruition. In MY IDIOT BROTHER, Rudd goes for broke and nails the stereotype that all hippies do is smoke pot and live off the fat of the land. He was born for this role. This leading character so likable and hilarious, a sequel wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Like a gay cousin, everyone has that sibling who is a constant fuck up. MY IDIOT BROTHER works so well because it was co-written and directed by a brother and sister. Jesse Peretz (director) and Evgenia Peretz (co-writer) understand the value of family and how sometime we take our siblings for granted. With life constantly moving so fast, sometimes it’s hard to think about the line  ”family first.”

My only qualm about the film is towards the third act, it starts to feel a bit long, even though it’s only a 95 minute feature. The situations become redundant and knowing what’s about to happen puts a dent in BROTHER’s laugh factor. This works for Curb Your Enthusiasm,because the episodes are short and after 10 very successful seasons (and still going), it seems as though creator Larry David wants the viewer to know what’s about to happen from the get-go.

Redundancy aside, it’s Rudd’s Ned who makes this movie worth the watch. He’s a charming guy who just can’t catch a break. In a genre where bonehead mistakes can kill the laughs, MY IDIOT BROTHER is very smart.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2011 Review: TAKE SHELTER


Rating: 5/5

Writer/DirectorJeff Nichols
CastMichael ShannonKaty MixonJessica Chastain
StudioSony Pictures Classics

Since I’ve been attending film festivals, there’s always been that one film that that leaves me slack-jawed. It sticks in my head for the duration of my stay, and all I want to do is talk about it. If time allows, I’ll catch a second or third screening of it. The fun part is taking fresh eyes with me, peeking at their reactions during certain parts, and talking about it as we exit the theater. This year at Sundance 2011, that film is Jeff Nichols’ TAKE SHELTER.

TAKE SHELTER questions dreams, faith, and trust, and challenges paranoia, fear, and anxiety. Curtis LaForche (Shannon) is living a fairly good life. He has a roof over his head, a good job as a crew chief for a sand mining company, a loving wife named Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and an adorable young daughter named Hannah (Tova Stewart). The only hiccup in their road is Hannah’s disability — she’s recently become deaf, and Curtis’ health insurance at his new job hasn’t kicked in just yet, and she needs a cochlear implant.

From the first shot in the film, Curtis starts having terrifying dreams. They start with a wicked storm, pouring rain that resembles motor oil, and they end with him awakening to screams and real pain. Each one gets progressively worse. Are they predicting the end of the world? Appearing so undeniably real, Curtis starts to confuse real life with the dream world.  As paranoia starts to take a toll, he begins to build a living quarters underground, risking his job security, marriage, and friends.

TAKE SHELTER stars Michael Shannon, which hammered a “sold” sign in my brain once I read he was attached. Shannon is the greatest underrated actor (have you seen him in THE RUNAWAYS? — powerful) we’ve ever had,  which is why it’s so wonderful to see him get top billing as he career continues. What makes him so great is those creepy eyes — he’s proven to the world that you don’t need a pretty face to have a solid acting career. I could watch this guy stare at a wall for 90 minutes and still be captivated. In TAKE SHELTER, he’s a six foot stick of star dynamite. When he walks into the tornado shelter for the first time, he just sits on a bench, looking around at the walls. We don’t know what he’s thinking, only that something big is about to happen. It’s captivating.

TAKE SHELTER displays Curtis and Samantha’s love for each other and Hannah through their actions. When Curtis comes home from work late, he still takes off his shoes at the back door so he won’t wake Hannah up. Samantha still whispers, even though they both know she can’t hear them. The love her as much as the universe allows. As for each other, their love is tested on multiple occasions and it’s up to them to stand by each other and show the world. When Curtis thinks he’s might be catching a mild-turned-major case of schizophrenia, love is really put on the thin ice. These nightmares haunt and eat at him.

TAKE SHELTER is proof that you don’t need to heavily rely on CGI to make a good story about the apocalypse. Yes, there is limited CGI in the film (digital hat nod to Hydraulx), but it’s only there to give our story a push. When we get to our visual effects scenes, it’s impressive. One scene in particular I will not spoil, but  know that it’s something you’d expect out of a Chris Nolan flick. This film though, is driven by its central characters, Curtis and Samantha. As mentioned above, Shannon has no problem keeping my interest. Neither did Chastain - she gives us her all as Samantha and it’s powerful. By the end of the film, we are aching to see The LaForche’s make it through everything.

This film is is not supposed to be focused on a possible apocalypse. This is a story about love, communication, and family. When TAKE SHELTER takes refuge in theaters sometime this year, grab your significant other’s hand, and lead them to see this.

From the GATW Archives: SXSW 2011 Video Interview: HESHER co-writer/director Spencer Susser


A year ago, Spencer Susser’s HESHER made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Like a bat out of hell, I fell in love with this film and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt; with HESHER, Joe strips down his handsome face, bangs the world over the head to prove he’s a truly talented actor who’s here for the role, not the fame. He took a chance with first time feature director Spencer Susser, whose story of HESHER is very dark, very sad, and very raw, but all at the same time, very beautiful.

A few days ago at SXSW, I finally caught up with Susser to talk about HESHER. I stress the bold and italics for the word “finally” in the previous sentence because Susser and I made several attempts to sit down to do a nice interview but, as you probably know, making plans at a very large festival is idiotic and almost insane.

I’m really glad our time spent happened right before Susser left for the airpot because our location was quiet and we had enough time to cover everything I wanted to know about HESHER (it’s a lot). He’s a really talented filmmaker and I plan on championing his career as long as I’m doing this whole movie film website stuff. Enjoy!