Weekend Roundup + The End of the Tour review

Happy Sunday all! Summer in Minnesota is fleeting so we try to do outdoor stuff as much as we can. Suffice to say we barely had time to watch any movie, we were too tired for home cinema but y’know what, we’ll have plenty of time for home movies later in the Fall & Winter.

I did get a lot of script writing done this week, which is always a GOOD thing. The highlight of my weekend was attending the MN Irish Fair at Harriet Island. MNIrishFest2015

We purposely got there a bit later in the day but managed to catch a couple of great Irish bands: Young Dubliners and Wild Colonial Bhoys. We even saw a booth selling some Outlander merchandise, complete with a poster of Jamie & Claire 😀

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Last Thursday I went to a press screening of The End of the Tour at Mall of America, with actor Jason Segel in attendance for the Q&A afterwards. He was cordial and really fun to listen to. I didn’t know much about him but let’s just say I have a new respect for the actor.

He shared some tidbits about filming in Mall of America, and it’s interesting that the exact theater we were in is also the same one they filmed one of the scenes in the movie!

Here’s my review:

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I have to say I’m not familiar with the subject matter. I haven’t read anything by David Foster Wallace, nor did I know about David Lipsky’s book based on his interview with the famed author. The film opens with news of Wallace’s death, a suicide, which prompted Rolling Stone’s reporter David Lipsky to listen to the interview tapes and reminisce on the five-days they shared at the end of Wallace’s book tour.

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The film mostly takes place in flashback, which took place in 1996 after Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel Infinite Jest. The 1000+ page book takes place in North America dystopia, and deals with themes of addiction, recovery, entertainment and film theory, among others. It was Lipsky idea to interview Wallace and it certainly has become one of his most important reporting work in his career.

I must give kudos to director James Ponsoldt and screenwriter Donald Margulies for tackling such a challenging project such as this one. There’s not much happening in this film, mostly it’s just two people talking and so if you’re not engrossed in the characters’ journey from the start, most likely you won’t enjoy this film at all. Thankfully that’s not the case here and both Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg practically lost themselves in the role. Most especially Segel, who gained about 40 pounds to portray Wallace and he’s almost unrecognizable under that unflattering bandana.

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The film consist mostly of conversations between these two men, it certainly helps that there’s a convincing chemistry between the two actors. They seem to get along well and there’s a mutual admiration, but there’s also inevitable tension. Humor also plays a part in making the exchange fun to watch, especially the parts in Mall of America, one of which involves them watching the action movie Broken Arrow in the exact same theater I was sitting in.

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There’s something so natural in the way the dialog and scenes play out, as if the two actors have known each other for ages. It also feels as if we’re eavesdropping on their conversation at times, there’s a bit of a documentary feel to the way it’s filmed. For a film about a writer, and getting into the psyche of his writing process, I think the film did a wonderful job in inviting even non Wallace fan like I am to appreciate him for who he is. The existential quality of the conversation also offers interesting insights into what Wallace thinks about the entertainment world and fame.

I’m glad I got to see this film. As an aspiring writer myself, it’s always fascinating to get a glimpse of the life of a successful writer, and more importantly, what he thinks about such a success. If you’re slightly more familiar with David Foster Wallace than I am, then it’s a must-see. If not, it’s worth seeing to see comedic actor Jason Segel in a serious role, no doubt a career high for him that might even garner him some nominations come award season.

4Reels


So what did you see this weekend? Anything good?

FlixChatter Review: SEX TAPE (2014)

AshleyBanner

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This review will be short and sweet because honestly there’s not a whole lot to say about Sex Tape.

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts. 

Yep. That’s about it. I went in with low expectations and it’s exactly what I got. The story is pretty simple. Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) met in college and had an intense physical relationship, but an accidental pregnancy, marriage and another kid later, they find their sex life is somewhat nonexistent. Annie is a mommy blogger whose blog is being courted by a Fisher Price type company and Jay is a music producer who is constantly gifting his iPads to family, friends and strangers. So, when Jay upgrades to a cloud based storage system and they film their sex tape on his iPad, it’s automatically sent to all of Jay’s used iPads. Yikes.

Sounds like a great foundation for a comedy right? Eh. When a film isn’t even rated half good (4.9/10 on IMDB), how do you expect audiences to be excited for it? Sure, there were some comical and awkward scenes, but it just felt tired. It was Jason Segel being Jason Segel. With the exception of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, his comedy has become redundant. And, he can’t seem to let go of that one character.

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I’m a big fan of Cameron Diaz’s humor because she’s physical, expressive and isn’t afraid to make herself look ridiculous. But, not even she could save this film. Which is a shame because I really enjoyed her last film, The Other Woman. True, it didn’t receive great reviews either, but maybe because the humor of that film was on the weird and complex nature of female relationships.

Honestly the amount of nudity and the premise of the film just didn’t work for me. The nudity was completely gratuitous and at times very awkward. Segel and Diaz spent more time naked than actually acting. Plus, it wasn’t believable that an intelligent, tech savvy couple couldn’t figure out how to delete their file from the cloud. I guess it wouldn’t make for an interesting film, but the couple embarked on a race to individually delete the file. Their journey leads them to Annie’s possible future boss’s house. Frank (Rob Lowe) appears to be clean cut, but Jay and Annie find him home alone and letting loose. I swear Lowe doesn’t seem to age, but he’s plays the eccentric, aloof characters so well. The film is almost worth seeing just because of him. Almost. 

I originally was going to give this three reels, but the more I’ve been thinking about it, it really only deserves a two. Sorry, I really dug into this one I know. But, I’m just being honest!

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So what do you think of this movie? Am I alone on the Jason Segel thing?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Muppets Review

Happy Monday all! How’s your Easter weekend? Did you get any time off? Unfortunately, it’s not a company holiday where I work, but it certainly didn’t dampen the special meaning of this holiday for me.

Well, I did get to the cinema on Saturday and this weekend I actually saw two movies I wasn’t initially interested in before, but suffice to say I’m glad I gave both of them a shot. Interestingly both are Disney movies, which is totally unplanned. I think the last movie I saw from Disney was Tangled almost a year ago.

Oh, we’ve also got Netflix streaming so finally we got the chance to catch up on shows we’ve been meaning to watch for a while, namely BBC’s Sherlock! I was intrigued by my friend Novia’s post on one of the episodes. Seems like a lot of people LOVE this series and I can totally see why. I’m so hooked now, the writing is so clever and witty, and of course the lead actors Benedict Cumberbatch (one of my new fave actors) and Martin Freeman are absolutely terrific. I’ll be posting about this series in the near future, surely.

Stay tuned for my review of John Carter up tomorrow. Anyway, below is my review of…

The Muppets (2011)

Ok, I feel that I must confess that the reason I wasn’t initially interested in this movie is because I didn’t really watch The Muppet Show growing up, I mean my hubby and I were wondering what the difference was between that show and Sesame Street! 😀 But of course, there are a few characters I’m familiar with, and that is Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, and that’s about it.

Truth be told, I was quite surprised by how much people LOVE The Muppets, I mean this movie was a box office hit and a critical darling, garnering 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. My blog friends were egging me on to watch this (you know who you are) and so on Friday night, my hubby and I were looking for something wholesome to watch on Good Friday and this movie just seemed like the right choice!

The story begins with Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) on vacation to L.A. Though it was initially an anniversary celebration for Gary and Mary, it ended up being all about Walter and his puppet idols when he inadvertently uncover an evil plan from oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to knock down the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil  beneath it. The solution to such predicament is to raise $10 mil to save the theater, and the only way to do so is to stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon.

It’s quite fun to go along the journey of Walter & co. along with Kermit to find the rest of the Muppets. I heard an interview w/ the writers of the movie, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller on NPR that the only way to ‘alter’ the essence of the Muppet characters is to introduce ‘doppelgangers’ of the original ones, thus the Moopets, with only Fozzie as the only one from the original show.

As with any Disney musicals, there are plenty of song and dances here, and some are totally unexpected! Really, it’s worth renting just to see Chris Cooper rapping in a hilarious scene that came out of the blue!! Oh that was a hoot to see the normally-serious actor bursting into a hip-hop number, with lyrics like “I got more cheddar than some super-size nachos/got cash flow like Robert has De Niros,” and managed to do it with a straight face!

There are plenty of cameos in this movie, but I’m glad I didn’t know who they are going in which adds to the surprise. The human characters obviously take a backseat to the Muppets, though both Segel and Adams each have their own musical segment that are pretty enjoyable, especially the Man or Muppet one that’s funny but quite touching as well. It deservedly won an Oscar for Best Original Song.

The movie also ends on a high note with telethon itself and that famous song The Rainbow Connection, which of course magically worked out so well despite the disastrous rehearsals. Hey, this is not the movie where it’s best to enjoy without asking too many questions, just sit back and enjoy the infectious festive fun of what’s in front of you.

Final Thoughts: Well, I’m glad I finally saw what the fuss is about this movie. I can see why these characters are so massively popular and director James Bobin and composer Bret Mckenzie did creator Jim Henson proud with this one. It’s highly entertaining and would definitely delight longtime devotees and new fans alike.


4 out of 5 reels


So what did you watch this weekend? And are you a fan of The Muppets, if so, what did you think of the movie?

Double Screening Reviews: Jeff Who Lives At Home & Salmon Fishing in The Yemen

Happy Thursday all! Today I bring you two mini reviews that my friend Haley and I saw at an advanced screening this week.

Jeff, Who Lives At Home

Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Stars: Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Judy Greer

Let me preface by saying I’m no writer, in fact a sheer sense of panic set in when Ruth asked me to write a review for her blog. I’m also no film connoisseur, but I am a visual person and movies are stories in pictures, I love that. Also, someone once told me that life begins when you step outside your comfort zone, so here goes…

So last night, I went with a group of 5 to a screening of Jeff, Who Lives at Home at the Lagoon Cinema in Uptown, Minneapolis. I must say, it was a far cry from Steve McQueen’s Shame I saw a couple of weeks prior that left me feeling uncomfortable, dirty and a overwhelmingly unsettled. But this isn’t about Shame…I still don’t know how I feel about that one.

The consensus for Jeff, Who Lives at Home was determined unanimously over post-movie drinks to be “Almost great”. Although it all left us with warm fuzzies and wondering what signs in our lives we may have been ignoring, it certainly wasn’t what we had expected. So many movies these days market themselves as comedies, cause everyone likes to laugh and feel good, but this was a different approach and may very well have been the best way to get people into the theater with a cast of comedians. It was funny, don’t get me wrong, and there was probably even one too many jokes about the unusually large size of Jason Segel, but definitely more of a drama than a comedy.

One of my friends proclaimed “Well, I liked it and I usually hate most movies”, so even with the toughest critics it seemed to hit some sort of chord. Despite not being great and not quite what we were expecting it was good. And as much as the yogi in me wants to trust in everything and have faith in the universe that eventually our destiny will be revealed I also sympathize with the skeptics and realists in the world that have been burned too many times by trusting in their optimism.

So if you are looking to be uplifted, laugh a little and almost shed a tear at the end, then this movie is for you. If you ever find yourself wondering if that little seemingly insignificant thing that happened to you today meant something more, than this movie is for you. If you have ever found yourself searching for meaning in life and know you were meant for great things that just haven’t revealed themselves yet, then this is for you. If you are looking for a naked Jason Segel and toothless Ed Helms then you may be somewhat disappointed. But for all the dreamers and optimists (or wannabes) in search of inspiration and happiness we so desperately need in our lives, this is a flick that shouldn’t be missed. Not to mention, I’ve always secretly wished Susan Sarandon was my Mom.

3 out of 5 reels

Review by Haley K.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Director: Lasse Hallström
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas

This movie is one of my most anticipated films I listed on this post, so when I got advanced screening tickets from my pal Ted, I was very excited. Thankfully it did not disappoint!

The one thing that grabbed me right away is the bizarre story, based on a novel of the same name by Paul Torday. I mean Salmon fishing in Yemen?? I mean how could the species that thrive in cold water survive in the hot climate of the Middle East??

Well, the protagonist Fred Jones (McGregor), a fisheries expert for the British government, ponders the exact same thing when he receives this peculiar request. His first meeting with a rep for a wealthy sheik (Blunt) at her office is quite a hoot to watch, especially the scene of him illustrating the impossibility of this project and making up some incredibly high amount of money (50 million Pounds!) in attempt to dissuade the sheik. But obviously money is no object and the sheik is willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen.

The sheik (Waked) mentions the notion of faith frequently to the atheistic Jones, challenging him that there’s more to life than ‘facts and figures.’ It’s not so much faith in religious terms so much as a conviction and believing that something could happen against all odds. The Egyptian-born Waked is so darn charismatic and charming, perfectly cast as a kind and wise Arab royalty who actually has a purpose for this seemingly preposterous project and not simply to indulge on his salmon fishing hobby.

This film is quite tricky to categorize, I mean it’s sold as a rom-com but there are elements of environmentalism, foreign relations and even terrorism, though not in a way you’d expect. In fact, it’s a rare film where a wealthy Arab is portrayed in a positive light and breaks the stereotype that not all of them want to blow up the West.

The casting is definitely a strong point here. McGregor and Blunt have a sweet chemistry together, and their slow-burn romance is wonderful to watch. Blunt has a more emotional performance here, which works pretty well against the more deadpan McGregor. I definitely enjoy seeing Scott Thomas in a comedic role as an over-zealous Britain Press Secretary. She’s so sarcastic it’s downright cruel, bossing everyone around including her own boss the Prime Minister. The iPhone chat between the two is pretty funny, but her reaction seeing the Arab guards dressed in Scottish kilts at the sheik’s castle prompted the most laughter, ‘Oooh, happy birthday Patricia!’

Aside from the few surprising twists and the quirky premise, this movie doesn’t really break new grounds. A lot of the scenes are quite predictable, but Swedish director Lasse Hallström’s direction made for an enjoyable and heart-warming movie. There are also gorgeous scenery of the Scottish highlands (and the sheik’s sprawling estate) and also Morocco which subs for Yemen.

So yeah, Salmon Fishing in Yemen is a fun catch (pardon the pun). It probably won’t be as fondly remembered as Chocolat, but I don’t even mind renting this again one day on DVD.

4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen any of these? If not, do either of them appeal to you?