Posts Tagged ‘Owen Wilson’

Parental Misguidance

Father Figures

Director: Lawrence Sher

Cast: Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, J. K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, June Squibb, Kat Williams, Ryan Cartwright and Ryan Gaul

Considering how packed the cinema was on a Sunday afternoon, one would have expected Father Figures to be a really funny family comedy.

Unfortunately, first time director Lawrence Sher’s Father Figures is very lightweight and not nearly as hilarious as such classic films as The Hangover despite pairing Owen Wilson and Ed Helms together as non-identical twins who go on a quest from Columbus, Ohio via Miami to upstate New York in search of who their biological father really was.

As brothers, Peter and Kyle Reynolds they couldn’t be more different.

Dr Peter Reynolds is a conservative surgeon who has to contend with a failed marriage and a teenage son who doesn’t communicate with him. Ed Helms (The Hangover) plays Peter Reynolds perfectly while Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, The Internship) plays the blonde Hawaiian Kyle Reynolds who supposedly made his fortune off a BBQ sauce recipe and is now chilling back living off the imagined royalties.

The premise for the two brothers to go on a trans-America road trip is when their mother Helen, a briefly seen Glenn Close, whose presence in the film adds some credence to the otherwise inane plot of Father Figures. Maybe the Oscar nominated star of Dangerous Liaisons and Albert Nobbs decidedly to play comedy for a change.

Although it is wonderful to see Glenn Close on screen in a maternal role especially to two forty something men who are desperate to discover who their biological father is.

What follows is a episodic journey around America whereby Peter and Kyle get to know each other as well as an assortment of fatherly figures ranging from the shady con-man Roland Hunt played by Oscar winner J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) who is still living with his own mother played by Oscar nominee June Squibb (Nebraska) to veterinary doctor Dr Walter Tinkler played by Oscar winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter).

Kyle and Peter also land up on a train track with an unsuspecting hitchhiker played by Katt Williams as well as being caught up in a family brawl with Irish brothers Liam and Sean O’Callaghan played by Ryan Cartwright and Ryan Gaul.

Despite, the acting talent and the normally funny Ed Helms and Owen Wilson, Father Figures fails to lift off as a truly believable story – the only relatable part was the constant sibling rivalry between brothers and genuine conflict which ensues.

Father Figures is an extremely lightweight comedy which doesn’t take itself or the characters too seriously. The film gets a rating of 5.5 out of 10. Recommended for audiences that enjoy low brow jokes and some contrived comic situations which do not come across as original or particularly witty but are merely inserted into the plot to create some generated and thoughtless laughs.

The Golden Fang

Inherent Vice

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There will be Blood, The Master, Boogie Nights)

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Eric Roberts, Jena Malone, Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Martin Donovan, Maya Rudolph, Serena Scott Thomas

In the spirit of Magnolia and Boogie Nights, director Paul Thomas Anderson assembles an eclectic cast of stars for his cinematic adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice with Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, Gladiator) as stoner private detective Larry Doc Sportello who goes on a labyrinthine search for his ex-girlfriend Shasta Hepworth played by Katherine Waterston (Michael Clayton, Taking Woodstock).

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Set in 1971, during the Nixon administration, in California, Inherent Vice is a rambling and extended tour de force of the hippie’s drug culture of Southern California involving kinky and corrupt cops especially Lt Detective Christian “BigFoot” Bjornsen wonderfully played by the orally fixated Josh Brolin, straight laced deputy district attorneyPenny Kimball played by Reese Witherspoon and an elusive government informant Coy Harlingen played by Owen Wilson.

Oscar winner for director Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic Benicio del Toro also makes a brief appearance as Doc’s legal adviser Sauncho Smilax Esq, but this is very much Phoenix’s film and he inhabits every frame with a sort of woozy ease that is at times prolonged and other times fascinating. This is by no means Phoenix’s best performance and does not match his brilliant portrayal of the boozy drifter Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson’s superb critically acclaimed film The Master.

At a running time of just over two and a half hours, one cannot blame the viewer for getting slightly confused and bored. Inherent Vice has an intricate plot with lots of subtexts, subplots and quirky visual references but only serious fans of Paul Thomas Anderson will appreciate his laboured approach in adapting this contemporary novel to the big screen.

The best scenes are actually between Phoenix and Witherspoon who reunite after the success of the Oscar winning James Mangold film Walk the Line. Several of the other quite bizarre sequences are truly amazing to watch but the entire story could have done with some efficient editing.

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Audiences should also watch out for cameos by Eric Roberts, Martin Donovan and a crazed Martin Short. While the costumes and production design for Inherent Vice is spot on capturing the origins of the drug fueled and nefarious 1970’s, Paul Thomas Anderson film could have used some serious editing as this languid narrative tends to bewilder and obfuscate the viewer, which the point of the story.

Inherent Vice refers to possible drugs being smuggled into America on a mysterious vessel known as The Golden Fang from Indo-China or modern day Vietnam. This film is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Magnolia and Robert Altman’s far superior film Short Cuts. Not sure if Inherent Vice will quite make it to the cult status of The Master.

Fading Reign of Art Nouveau

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton

Moonrise Kingdom director Wes Anderson assembles a hugely talented ensemble cast led by the irresistable Ralph fiennes as Gustave H.  a suave Concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel who gets embroiled in a whimsical art theft after his benefactor dies mysteriously and her evil son Dimitri played by Adrien Brody pursues the eloquent and flamboyant Gustave in a fictitious republic of  Zubrowka representative of a modern day Yugoslavia or even The Czech Republic, but emblematic of a crumbling decadent and ravaged Eastern Europe.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful plot, inventive, hilarious, witty and beautifully orchestrated matched by a superb ensemble cast the likes of which haven’t been seen on screen for years including Oscar nominees F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Harvey Keitel (Bugsy), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of a Vampire), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Edward Norton (Primal Fear), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) – all consummate character actors and brilliant performers in the own right.

Each perfectly constructed shot in the Grand Budapest Hotel is a pastiche of old European movies and landscapes reminiscent of a time between the wars when civility was still in fashion. When Old European Hotels were lavish and comfortable establishments with Bell Boys, Lift Operators, Chefs and naturally charming yet slimy Concierges adding to the intrigue of its elegance. When Hotels were places to spend a week, when time was plentiful and guests came to languish in the extraordinary facilities of these beautifully decadent Hotels which populated the ski slopes and small towns of Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

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Even though, the fictional country,  Zubrowka is representative of a mixture of Eastern European countries which all suffered under the Nazi’s and then under the Communists, the institutional history of such a charming hotel remained the centre of a town’s attraction, where legends of its fabled guests were passed down over the decades. The Grand Budapest Hotel reflects an era when Art Nouveau reigned supreme especially in the 1930’s. This comedy set in 1932, featuring a complicated and whimsical if not absolutely witty plot is deftly handled by screenwriter Anderson who makes sure each of his cast members whether on screen for a second or for several scenes delivers a perfect performance.

The cast also includes Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson and Tilda Swinton. Inspired by the works of 20th century Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, The Grand Budapest Hotel is expertly crafted, dazzlingly assembled and wonderfully executed. A real treat of a film which will sure to delight audiences for years to come  much like the Hotel whose guests found its hidden charms suitably enchanting. Highly recommended viewing and a winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival, The Grand Budapest Hotel is marvelous, whimsical, witty and comical with an underlying menace attached to the action, making the comedy almost tragic in its relevance.

 

 

 

Two Pals in Palo Alto

The Internship

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Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Szohr, Max Minghella, Rose Byrne, Will Ferrell, Josh Gad, Aasif Mandvi

It’s very difficult to make the internet appealing, funny or sexy onscreen. Director David Fincher achieved this in The Social Network with the brilliantly adapted screenplay by Aaron Sorkin of the Benz Mezrich novel The Accidental Billionaires about the rise of Facebook.

In a much lesser way The Internship once again teams up The Wedding Crashers comic duo Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as two middle aged wristwatch salesmen Bill McMahon and Nick Campbell who find their sales talents are no longer required in the 21st century digital age, forcing them to apply for an unlikely internship at Google Headquarters in Palo Alo, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

What follows is a humorous tale of two friends who have to compete in a so called mental Hunger Games scenario rife with geeky sci-fi comicbook references from X-Men to Harry Potter as part of a summer internship with a group of graduates half their age at the search engine’s playground themed headquarters. Whilst the Internship does not have the plot substance to sustain a two hour film, it nevertheless remains a clever comedy taking a poignant look at how the 40+ age group is coping with the sudden onslaught of the digital age especially all that Google has to offer.

Thankfully director Shawn Levy does takes some of the action of The Internship away from Google headquarters otherwise the entire film would be a product endorsement for the search engine giant, offering viewers some wonderful shots of San Francisco particularly the Golden Gate Bridge. There is also a very funny (The Hangover inspired scene) where Bill & Nick take their young team mates on a night out on the town landing in a pole dancing club and naturally the narrative is driven by the same onscreen chemistry between Vaughn and Owen which made The Wedding Crashers such a smash hit.

The late director Anthony Minghella’s son Max Minghella (The Social Network) plays the rival team leader Graham Hawtrey, a competitive alpha male who gets his laughs by putting down his fellow teammates, while Nick and Bill show that despite their age difference, collaboration is the best form of winning in a competitive environment. The Internship at times comes across as trite, supercilious, but it is nevertheless funny and is helped by a lovely appearance by Australian actress Rose Byrne, who plays Nick’s love interest Dana.

Cinematically The Internship is in not in the same league as The Social Network, but is a fun look at how 40 somethings have to re-evaluate and reinvent their professional lives in the wake of a 21st century youth inspired digital revolution whether its through Google, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook. For fans of The Wedding Crashers, then The Internship will certainly appeal, despite it being ageist, sexist and at times mundane, only highlighting that the American dream is still obtainable even if you have to Google it!

Besides uncredited cameos by John Goodman and Will Ferrell, the film also stars Dylan O’Brien, Josh Brener and Jessica Szohr.

 

 

Recapturing the Magic

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson has never been a brilliant actor. Mainly a comic actor and often cast in similar roles in a long series of American comedies from You, Me and Dupree to The Wedding Crashers. Under the right direction and script, Wilson is the type of actor that would shine. This is proven in Woody Allen’s simply delightful nostalgic film Midnight in Paris, which won him the 2012 Oscar for best original screenplay.

Wilson, like Jason Biggs and similar actors including Larry David plays a version of Woody Allen, a young idealistic  and neurotic playwright/author who is on holiday in Paris in the 21st century with his fiancée a wealthy American played by the effervescent Rachel McAdams. Wilson plays starry-eyed Gil who wants to recapture the Paris of the twenties, the enchanting city of lights as the epicentre of literary and artistic culture and bohemian ideas as it was decades ago. The Paris of Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. The Paris immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in such novels as Tender is the Night.

Partly to avoid his annoying future in-laws, the hapless Gil strolls the streets of the French capital and by some magical twist at the stroke of midnight is transported back to the late 1920’s where his literary figures come to life. With real interaction with the artists and writers of the 1920’s and also of the earlier more elegant Belle Epoque, Gil is inspired to forgo all the promised commercialism of an America career and remain in gorgeous Paris,  a move that so many of his literary heroes did more than 80 years ago.

Midnight in Paris is a homage to Paris as an inspirational city not just for a whole generation of American literary greats, but Spanish artists such as Dali and Picasso but also filmmakers such as Luis Bruneul. Woody Allen deftly integrates a French and American ensemble cast including Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Picasso’s muse, Adrien Brody as Dali, Allison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein and even Carla Bruni.

Moving away from his Manhattan obsessions, Woody Allen is clearly enchanted with such European cities as Paris, Barcelona and London completes his European set of films with Midnight in Paris, an equally brilliant companion to Vicky Christina Barcelona and Matchpoint, with each film not just capturing the essence of these cities but also the ambiance and social characteristics of its famed residents, whilst throwing an American hero or heroine into an essentially foreign continental culture.

 

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