THE ARGUMENT (2020)

September 3, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. Couples argue. Some more often and more boisterous than others. Things get ugly when friends and other outsiders are drawn into the arguments, which is exactly what we witness (in exaggerated form) with this film from director Robert Schwartzman and writer Zac Stanford (THE CHUMSCRUBBER, 2005). Schwartzman is also a musician and composer, and is the son of ROCKY actress Talia Shire, and the younger brother of actor Jason Schwartzman (MOONRISE KINGDOM, 2012).

Lisa (Emma Bell, A QUIET PASSION, 2016) has just finished her first acting gig (other than a cameo in her husband’s film) in a stage production of Mozart. Her husband Jack (Dan Fogler, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM) is simultaneously happy for her and insecure. His insecurity stems from his lack of success as a writer, and his suspicion, bordering on jealousy, of Lisa and her co-star Paul (Tyler James Williams, “Everybody Hates Chris”). The film picks up at the intimate after-party at Lisa and Jack’s home. It’s here where we meet Paul and his friend Trina (Cleopatra Coleman, “The Last Man on Earth”), and married couple Brett (Danny Pudi, “Community”) and Sarah (Maggie Q, “Nikita”). Brett is Jack’s literary agent, and he’s about as successful as an agent as Jack is as a writer. Sarah is an Entertainment Lawyer, who is as bored with the party as she was with Lisa’s play … she just wants to go home and sleep.

The party ends abruptly when Jack and Lisa get into a fierce argument. Alone in the house, neither accepts the blame, so of course, it escalates. The unconventional solution reached is to recreate the sequence of events with the same people saying and doing the same things they said and did that first night. Then they do it again. And again. A montage of do-overs causes us to lose track of just how many times these poor people re-live a forgettable and unpleasant evening.

A tonal shift occurs when Jack “casts” the party with actors, while still inviting the same friends to watch. Rather than exaggerated relationship issues, we get an exaggerated look at actors finding their characters … characters who happen to be sitting in the same room! This jolt of fresh faces transforms the film from quirky to slapstick, and it’s quite likely you’ll enjoy one segment more than the others. The “new” actors bring their own comedic style to the roles: an amped up Mark Ryder (“Borgia”) as Jack, actor-within-an-actor Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (“Misfits”) as Paul, a subdued Karan Brar (DIARY OF A WIMPY KID) as Brett, a willing Charlotte McKinney (FANTASY ISLAND) as Lisa, and Marielle Scott (LADY BIRD) as Trina.

The do-overs are a creative approach in attempting to solve the argument, but this movie is at its best, not in deep psychological analysis of relationships, but rather in the simple comedy elements on display. Relax and take it for what it is … a way to laugh at the problems of others without feeling an ounce of guilt. Just please don’t throw the pie.

In theatres and On Demand September 4, 2020

watch the trailer:


FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEWALD (2018)

November 15, 2018

 Greetings again from the darkness. It’s been seven years since the final Harry Potter movie, and this is the second entry in the planned series of 5 prequels entitled FANTASTIC BEASTS, based on a (fictional) Hogwarts’ textbook written by Magizoologist Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne). Of course the characters and stories are from the pen of J.K. Rowling, and who better to bring us the war pitting pure-blood wizards against Muggles?

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM was released in 2016, and it was mostly an introduction to these characters and to some of the cutest and oddest creatures we’d ever encountered on screen. This second entry is much darker and more sinister, and tries to develop quite a few characters … perhaps too many. On top of the roster of players, romantic complications abound, and a search for one’s roots/identity is yet another sub-plot. And then there’s that whole Nazi element – leaving us all a bit bewildered at trying to keep up (although, it is fun trying).

David Yates directed the last four Harry Potter movies, and now the first two Fantastic Beasts films. He kicks this one off with a spectacular action sequence featuring a black carriage being drawn by a team of majestic flying dragons during a driving rain storm … all part of a daring 1927 prison escape by the titular Grindewald (Johnny Depp with a bleach punk do). It’s a breathtaking sequence, and the best of many visual wonders throughout – including my favorite, a very cool statue effect and a fabulous kelp seahorse.

Most of the key players return from the first film, though, as previously mentioned, their stories are more elaborate. Eddie Redmayne returns as Newt, our main guide through this universe. Katherine Waterston is back as auror and fringy love interest Tina, Alison Sudol returns as Tina’s mind-reading sister Queenie, and Dan Fogler resumes his comic relief duties as Jacob. Jude Law is Albus Dumbledore (yes, the first name is needed), and he is prevented from fighting Gindewald (Depp) due to some youthful “bonding” that occurred years prior. Zoe Kravitz is Leta Lestrange, Carmen Ejogo is Seraphina Picquery, and Ezra Miller is the lost soul Credence Barebone. Newly introduced characters include Claudia Kim as shapeshifter Nagini, Callum Turner as Newt’s brother Theseus, and Brontis Jodorowsky (son of renowned cult director Alejandro Jadorowsky, EL TOPO) as non-ghost Flamel. If that’s not enough characters to track, you should know the story skips from New York to London to Paris and back around again.

Expect some happy gasps from the audience as Hogwarts is revisited, but the darkness and similarities to Nazi beginnings may surprise those expecting two hours of cutesy creatures springing from Newt’s coat … although, those exist as well. We do learn that ‘salamander eyes’ are not to be used while flirting, and it will be quite interesting to see how these stories close in to the Harry Potter world over the next 3 prequel-sequels (scheduled through 2024). It should be a fun ride – though not as fun as riding that seahorse.

watch the trailer: