Tag Archives: Michael Sheen

“Brad’s Status”

LOUISA: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

A father (Ben Stiller) who feels like a failure takes his son (Austin Abrams) on a tour of colleges in “Brad’s Status,” a sad sack, mopey, first person narrative film that wallows in self pity and doubt. If you think this doesn’t sound like a fun night at the movies, you’d be correct. This whiny, unpleasant film has writer / director Mike White written all over it, and this project serves as a mirror of his persona.

You can’t feel much else other than contempt for Stiller’s unpleasant, wholly unlikable character, Brad. He ignores his optimistic, cheerfully devoted wife (Jenna Fischer), and feels grossly inadequate with his nice house and nice car and his comfortable middle class lifestyle.

Instead of enjoying and living life, Brad constantly compares himself to his more successful college friends, including a retired tech entrepreneur (Jemaine Clement), a powerful political pundit (Michael Sheen), a Hollywood big shot (White), and a hedge fund manager (Luke Wilson). As Brad imagines their glamorous lives, he fails to appreciate his own. This comes off as some privileged white guy whining about not having supermodel girlfriends and a mountain of money. He still doesn’t have enough and longs for more: more money, more women, more success.

Brad’s insecurity manifests as a mid-life pity party that begins when his son starts looking at colleges and making plans for his bright future. Brad whines — a lot — about the loss of promise, ambition, and limitless expectations that are a by-product of having your entire life ahead of you. He gripes about how meaningless his life is and how awful the world has become. Cynicism and resentment control his life.

White’s direction is straightforward and boring, and the screenplay relies on the overuse of voiceover as a crutch. Brad’s internal monologue is lazily conveyed through narration that gets insufferably irritating about five minutes in.

There’s nothing bittersweet about this story, it’s not funny, and it’s one of those films that makes you feel bad when you exit the theater.

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“Home Again”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The innocuous, good-natured “Home Again” is a sweet little doe-eyed rom-com that delivers more than it promises. What a pleasure to see a film that’s lighthearted and free from the raunch that dominates most chick flicks nowadays.

Reese Witherspoon brings her usual plucky persona to the party as Alice, a recently separated mother of two who has moved from New York back to her childhood home in Los Angeles. On the night of her 40th birthday, the newly single woman meets a trio of broke aspiring filmmakers (Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, and Jon Rudnitsky) at a bar and after an evening of drinking (among other things), she decides to let the guys move into her guest house. Soon after, a May-December romance blossoms with one of her hunky tenants.

Before you dismiss this as nothing more than a cougar’s fantasy, the film tells a surprisingly emotionally authentic story. Alice acts like a real woman would act in this situation, as do her two daughters. Writer / director Hallie Meyers-Shyer sometimes stumbles over writing credible male characters, most notably Alice’s estranged husband Austen (the ever-charming Michael Sheen), and the group of young guys (have you ever met a twentysomething bachelor who purposely buys flowers at a farmer’s market to decorate his apartment)? But Meyers aces the dialogue that’s designed to appeal to the over 40 set (“You’re telling me you have live-in child care, 24/7 tech support, and regular sex?,” snorts one of Alice’s best friends).

There’s nothing even remotely offensive about this fizzy, feel-good movie and the performances (including a truly enjoyable turn from Candice Bergen as Alice’s former movie star mom) mirror the overall tone with their light and breezy air. Some of the characters are paper-thin, however, and have no reason to exist (like Lake Bell‘s demanding socialite), and several scenes fall flat under the weight of their predictability.

Still, this is a harmless, simple and straightforward movie with appealing actors and a kind-hearted tone. Overall it’s a sweet movie that will entertain its target audience.

“Passengers”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I love movies that make me start to internally question myself by asking what I would do in a certain situation, and “Passengers” did just that. (Interestingly enough, all three people in my party had different answers to that same question). The movie is sort of a morality play / sci-fi romance that offers plenty of food for thought as well as entertaining escapism.

The film is set entirely on a gigantic spaceship that’s carrying thousands of paying passengers and crew members in sealed hibernation pods. Everyone is asleep for the 120 year journey to a distant planet that they will later colonize. When there is a serious onboard malfunction, a couple of people are awakened 90 years too early, including mechanical engineer Jim (Chris Pratt) and writer Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). The pair struggle to solve the problem with the ship but are soon faced with the harsh reality that this is how and where they will live out the rest of their lives.

The ambitious story cleverly explores the idea of loneliness by inserting the character of android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen). Arthur doles out advice (sort of) and keeps the humans company. In what is undoubtedly going to be viewed as a misogynistic turn, Aurora and Jim begin a romantic relationship and supposedly fall in love. But are they really in love, or just faced with such desperation and grief that they sort of have to be romantically linked? This is slightly offensive to me as I’m sure it will be to others. Why settle for Mr. Right when Mr. Right Now is inhabiting the space station with you? We all know women are stronger and smarter than being forced into a romance simply because he’s the only game in town.

This is what makes the movie so damn odd. It can’t quite seem to make a firm decision as to where it wants to go and is a weird mix of uncomfortable, begrudging sci-fi romance but also a controversial tale of questionable morality. There are countless interesting ideas swirling around in the screenplay, but it’s next to impossible to overlook the fact that this story is more than a little sexist. I won’t say more to avoid giving away any spoilers because yes, there are some big surprises that are eventually revealed.

Regardless of the sexism, the movie is quite entertaining. There are some original and nifty set pieces, including a spectacular CGI scene of a total loss of gravity in a swimming pool and a thrilling space-based action climax with some fiery explosions and edge-of-your-seat situations. Laurence Fishburne turns up in a far too brief supporting role as crew member Gus, and the two leads have substantial chemistry that makes the uncomfortable romance element of the story much easier to swallow.

I  guess you can say I have a love / hate relationship with “Passengers,” but I do appreciate its passion and creativity. See this movie if you want something to talk about because I can guarantee this will spark many a heated discussion and impassioned debate with friends and family.