MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (2016)

March 24, 2016

big fat2 Greetings again from the darkness. It’s been 14 years since the Portokolas family took over movie theatres, the box office, and casual conversation in most every social setting. I’ll readily admit that, despite my leanings toward more serious film fare, I was a huge fan of the 2002 surprise mega-hit. The movie was refreshing and observational, with commentary on proud cultures and helicopter parenting – but mostly it was funny. Bundt cakes and Windex will forever be a part of movie lore … as this sequel reminds us.

Given the Hollywood proliferation of sequels, re-makes and re-imaginings, the only thing surprising here is that it took so long for Wedding number 2. And yes, that is the only surprise. Nia Vardalos obviously wrote this script as a love letter to the fans of the original. It fits like a warm blanket – comfortable and familiar. The setting, the characters and the jokes … all familiar … yet still pleasant and easy to watch.

With that title, we know we are in for another Greek wedding. However, Toula (Ms. Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) have one daughter – 17 year old Paris (Elena Kampouris), and her big decision is whether to stay local for college or leave Chicago and the family for NYU. Since the wedding is not for the daughter, it falls to Toula’s parents. It seems Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) have been living in sin for 50 years – all because the priest never signed the marriage certificate. Let the histrionics begin!

Director Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee, Waking Ned Devine) stays true to the spirit of the Vardalos script and legacy, and much of the movie plays like one big inside joke for fans of the original. Windex make an appearance in each of the three acts, and we get a shot of decorated Bundt cakes, some exaggerated make-up and hair styles, and a steady stream of family members who just can’t help their propensity for being loud and up in everyone’s business.

Most of the original cast returns. Andrea Martin is back as scene-stealer Aunt Voula, and Mama-Yiayia (Bess Meisler) gets her usual “pop-ups” plus a touching moment in the wedding spotlight. New faces include Alex Wolff (brother of Nat, son of Polly Draper) as Paris’ prom date; and Rita Wilson (also a producer with her husband Tom Hanks) and John Stamos have a couple of scenes as a Greek couple; while Mark Margolis (“Breaking Bad”, “Better Call Saul”) appears as Gus’ brother from the homeland.

Nostalgia and familiarity are the keys here, and there is no reason to be overly-critical of a movie that is so pleasant and light-hearted. “There you go!”

watch the trailer:

 


NASTY BABY (2015)

October 29, 2015

nasty baby Greetings again from the darkness. Many indie films receive positive responses during a film festival run because most festival goers are frequent movie watchers, and really appreciate the unique and brave approach taken by the rebellious and up-and-coming filmmakers. Writer/director Sebastian Silva lulls us into the comfort zone of a “friends” story and then stuns us with a third act that could seem out-of-the-blue, if one weren’t paying close attention along the way.

Mr. Silva also stars as Freddy, a media artist who is working on a video project (entitled Nasty Baby) that features himself (and others) imitating infants. He lives in Brooklyn with his boyfriend Mo, played by TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe (so good in Rachel Getting Married, 2008). They are part of a trio of friends completed by Polly (Kristen Wiig), who is addressing her biological clock by relentlessly pursuing artificial insemination from her two friends.

While it’s easy as a viewer to get complacent watching the interactions of these three mostly likable people in various elements: together, separately, at work, with other acquaintances, and especially with neighbors; the script offers many subtle hints along the way about the make-up of each.

The supporting cast is excellent and includes Reg E Cathey (“House of Cards”) as a mentally-shaky neighbor, Mark Margolis (“Breaking Bad”) as a more level-headed neighbor, Alia Shawkat (underutilized here, but very talented) as Freddy’s assistant, and Neal Huff as the eccentric gallery owner.

Normal seems like a pretty straightforward term, but the film shows that normal really doesn’t exist, since it’s always changing. The relationship of this trio of friends, their plan for child-rearing, and the family dinner at Mo’s parent’s home … all examples of how normal has shifted. And to top it off, the film’s third act can’t be considered normal by any standard of story-telling, and you will question how you missed the true character of the main players … and maybe even how you would react, if you found yourself in this spot. If nothing else, the film might make you a bit more tolerant of your annoying neighbor that has caused you so many negative thoughts over the years.

watch the trailer:

 

 


STAND UP GUYS (2013)

February 3, 2013

stand up Greetings again from the darkness. Any movie lover with a sense of history has to get at least a little excited hearing about a star vehicle featuring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin. These three screen legends together prove the adage … worth the price of admission. And that’s a good thing, because there is little else that works for this movie.

The movie unfolds like a tribute to its three stars. That’s not a compliment. First time screenwriter Noah Haidle and character actor-turned director Fisher Stevens simply lack the chops to provide material worthy of the cast. So we get Pacino doing a Tony Montana growl and A Scent of the Woman dance; Walken doing his deadpan delivery and even a quick little soft shoe; and Arkin falls back into his half-crazed,moment-seizing act. What we don’t see is a story line that pushes any of them to a “wow” moment.

Pacino plays Val, and we meet him on the day of his release after 28 years in prison. He’s picked up by Doc, his old partner in crime, or crime partner if you prefer (played by Walken). There are a couple of not so secrets twists that try to keep it interesting, but the best part comes when they spring their old driver Hirsch (Arkin) from his nursing home and oxygen mask.

stand up4 The night on the town allows for plenty of female interactions: a brothel run by Lucy Punch, a nurse played by Julianna Marguiles, another brothel visit, revenge for a female victim played by Vanessa Ferlito, and multiple chats with a young diner waitress (Addison Timlin). Unfortunately, this big night also provides entirely too much consumed alcohol, numerous penis jokes, an extended (so to speak) Viagra sequence and attempts at laughter thanks to hyper-tension and insurance co-pays.

The old guys do their best to uphold the code from the good ol’ days – both as gangsters and actors. It’s just inexcusable that the script wasn’t improved to take advantage of this talent. Despite that, there was a certain sense of nostalgia that proved enjoyable watching these guys on screen together.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: for no other reason than the nostalgia of seeing Pacino, Walken and Arkin on screen together.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you don’t share my sense of nostalgia and prefer movies that have a script worthy of the cast and your time

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NApJNjPTqZs