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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Black’

Joaquin Phoenix

“DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT”  My rating: B

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot”  a seemingly hopeless alcoholic turns his life around after a car crash leaves him a quadriplegic.

Is it churlish of me to admit that I actually prefer the first part of the film — the drunken, obnoxious, grotesquely guzzling part — over the uplifting recovery-through-AA second half?

Gus Van Sant’s latest feature is the fact-based story of John Callahan, who with the one hand he could still partly control drew some of the blackest, funniest cartoons ever printed. The film’s title, in fact, is the caption of one of his scandalous creations:  A posse of cowboys on horseback come across an empty wheelchair  in the desert. “Don’t worry,” says the sheriff in charge, “he won’t get far on foot.”

Callahan, who died in 2010  at age 51, is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix as a reprehensible asshole who — perhaps because of his traumatic infirmity — slowly discovers his own humanity and self-worth.

Certainly his pre-accident life was nothing to be proud of.  A native of the Portland area, Callahan worked manual labor and spent every recreational hour sucking down the booze. The film suggests that at least part of his problem was that he was abandoned as a child by his mother — evidently an unmarried Roman Catholic girl who gave up her baby to the nuns.  It was a betrayal that Callahan never got over…or perhaps he was just looking for an excuse for his destructive behavior.

He was also sexually abused as a child, although the film makes no mention of that.

Without actually showing the crash, Van Sant and his co-writers (Jack Gibson and William Andrew Eatman, adapting Callahan’s memoir) depict a day of furious barhopping by Callahan and his newfound drinking buddy Dexter (Jack Black). Rarely has unfettered, dedicated, puke-your-guts-out boozing been captured with such gleeful intensity. It’s appalling, certainly, but also weirdly attractive.

Callahan wakes up in an ER where an not-particularly-sympathetic MD gives him the bad news. He’ll probably never feel anything below the neck.

After months of rehab Callahan is introduced to a motorized wheelchair…which means he can now drive himself  to the liquor store and pick up where he left off.  Granted, it’s frustrating trying to rest a bottle in the elbow of one arm while using your only mobile hand to twist off the cap…but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

There’s a manic, almost Keystone Kops intensity to Callahan’s use of  his motorized wheelchair, which he drives at daredevil velocity, weaving in and out of street traffic. Now and then he overturns this mini-dune buggy and must be lifted back into the seat by a passerby. Even after getting clean, it’s obvious that he needs  some sort of addiction…now speed has replaced alcohol as his drug of choice.

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James Marsden, Jack Black

James Marsden, Jack Black

“THE D TRAIN” My rating: B-  

97 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The D Train” begins in familiar, comforting territory.

Jack Black plays an overgrown manchild attempting to relive — and retroactively improve — his outsider adolescence by planning his 20th high school class reunion.

Black’s Dan Landsman is so desperate to be cool and in charge that he’s painful to behold. At the same time, Dan‘s reunion mania leaves little time for him to appreciate the genuinely positive things in his life — the Missus (Kathryn Hahn), their 14-year-old son (Russell Posner), and his good-guy boss (Jeffrey Tambor).

(In fact, Dan is such a miserable sad sack that I found it hard to laugh, even when the frustrated character explodes in furious karate kicks like the ursine warrior Black depicts in the animated “Kung-Fu Panda” franchise).

Dan concocts a scheme to boost reunion attendance by enticing Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), once the school’s dominant BMOC, to return. Oliver is now an LA actor with a national TV ad peddling suntan lotion.

This will require a trip to California to corner Oliver in his natural environment. So that his employer will cover his air fare, Dan lies  that he’s tracked down a big business prospect in Hollywood.

It soon becomes evident to everyone but the starstruck, uber-square Dan that Oliver is a drug-scarfing, bed-hopping bottom feeder who has gotten all the mileage he can out of his hunky good looks. Still, the failed actor is more than happy to engage in a drunken carouse paid for by this this barely-remembered figure from his high school days.

For Dan it’s a chance to get up close to the classmate who previously wouldn’t have given him the time of day.

Then  “The D Train” drops a plot development that is guaranteed to raise eyebrows, appall some viewers and turn the movie inside out. If you want to read the spoiler — and there’s no way to not mention it in a thorough discussion of the film — continue.

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“KUNG FU PANDA 2”  My rating: C

minutes | Rating: G

“Kung Fu Panda 2” is one of the most beautiful animated films ever, with fantastic action scenes, astonishingly detailed “sets” and a filmic sense worthy of any live-action epic.

It’s a good thing it’s so gorgeous, because dramatically it’s pretty much a wash.

Not awful. But not memorable.

This sequel assembles most of the voices from the first “Panda,” especially Jack Black (more…)

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