Friday, August 5, 2011

Quick Takes: HappyThankYouMorePlease, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, The Company Men, Going the Distance

Well, what do ya know? Ted Mosby is an aspiring filmmaker and, surprisingly enough, he ain't half bad! Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother wrote, directed and stars in HappyThankYouMorePlease (2010), a charming collection of love stories among a group of thirty-something New Yorkers. Radnor does not break new ground here but he writes wonderfully and has assembled a very strong cast of young actors, including Malin Akerman (she gets better every time I see her), Pablo Schreiber (who I'll never forget as Nicky Sobotka on season two of The Wire), Zoe Kazan and the always delightful Kate Mara. We knew Jason Segal, Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan had talent, so it's nice to see Radnor successfully attempting to break out of the sitcom mold (Cobie Smulders, you're up!). Radnor's next film, Liberal Arts (featuring Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney and hot commodity Elizabeth Olsen) looks impressive. Watch out Zach Braff and Ed Burns; Radnor just invaded your territory. 3.5/5

I never cared much for Joan Rivers, but I gotta give the woman credit. Her career had more ups and downs than anyone in the stand up industry. Her resolve is rather astounding; she simply does not know how to quit. In the engaging doc, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010), we watch Rivers get a fresh start over and over again. She encountered so many obstacles in her career path but yet she always manages to find gigs and continue to perform. She will do absolutely anything for work and it's refreshing to see such a strong work ethic, especially in an industry where fame is handed over to you like a baton in a relay race. I love a good raunchy joke, but her standup doesn't do it for me. However, Joan's got moxie and, thanks to this doc, she's got my respect. 3/5

The Company Men (2010) is not a bad film but it should have been much better. The pedigree attached to it is remarkable; uber TV producer John Wells wrote and directed an astounding cast featuring Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosemarie DeWitt and Kevin Costner. It's a timely drama about how losing your job amid an unstable economy affects your family, yourself, and those around you. The Company Men is engaging and superbly acted, but it falls far short of greatness. I can't quite put my finger on why it doesn't fully reach its potential, but once those credits rolled I didn't care to give it another thought. For a better movie in the same vein, try Up in the Air. 3/5

I will admit it. I have a soft spot for Drew Barrymore. She may not have a great track record, but if she's in a movie, I'm going to see it. I just find her adorable, no matter what she does. In Going the Distance (2010), Barrymore is smart, silly, even a little raunchy ("Don't stare up at me, just lick!"). I can't seem to resist her. However, the film itself has its share of problems. It's mired in formula; everything that happens here is a rom-com cliche. The chemistry of the two leads and the talented supporting cast aren't quite charming enough to make it stand out from this overcrowded genre. Having said that, being the Drew loyalist that I am, I must place the lion's share of the blame on the film's bland leading man. Sorry, Justin Long. It's not her, it's you. 2.5/5


Andina said...

I also love 'Happythankyoumoreplease'. Josh Radnor seems to have a potential.

Dave said...

Couldn't agree more, Andina! Thanks for chiming in.


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