Posts Tagged ‘Jason Sudeikis’

Evangeline Lilly, Jason Sudeikis

“SOUTH OF HEAVEN” My rating: C (Glenwood Arts and VOD)

120 minutes | No MPAA rating

Thanks to the awards magnet known as “Ted Lasso,” 2021 is going down as Jason Sudeikis’ year. Not even a misstep like “South of Heaven” will change that.

What we’ve got here is a multiple-personality crime yarn about an ex-con who gets caught up in ugly (and wildly improbable) events.

We first meet Jimmy (the KC-reared Sudeikis) at his parole hearing in a Texas prison.  He tells the board that after serving 12 years of a 15-year sentence for bank robbery, he’s ready to return home and nurse his childhood sweetheart, who is dying of cancer.

“Lasso” fans may be struck with deja vu.  Jimmy has more than a little in common with the Kansas-bred coach.  There’s no ‘stache, but he shares with Ted a laconic nice-guyness and an innate sweetness. (In fact, Jimmy seems way too copacetic to be a career crook; eventually we’ll learn that the botched bank job was his only foray into crime.) 

Moreover, both characters have that aw-shucks Midwestern way of talking. The big difference is that Ted is bent on amusing us, what with all his witty literary and cultural namedropping. Jimmy, on the other hand, isn’t deliberately funny and doesn’t have all that much to say.

Initially Aharon Keshales’ film (co-written with Kai Mark and Navot Papushado) presents itself as a tear-jerking love story.  The paroled Jimmy returns to his gal Annie (Evangeline Lilly with a blond pixie cut); he’s devoted to making her last months count.

But staying straight ain’t easy.  Jimmy’s parole officer, Schmidt (Shea Whigham, a fine actor here shamelessly overacting), is a creep who threatens to send Jimmy back to prison if he doesn’t serve as a mule in Schmidt’s mini crime syndicate.

On Schmidt’s behalf our reluctant hero finds himself running afoul of both a Hispanic drug lord (Amaury Nolasco) and an African-American gangster (Mike Colter).  (Why are the heavies minorities? Just curious.) At one point the latter kidnaps Annie because he believes Jimmy has made off with a half million of his ill-gotten gains.

Mike Colter

A desperate Jimmy responds by snatching the gangster’s entitled tweener son (Thaddeus J. Mixson).

Yeah, there’s way too much plot here, all of it ending in a most unromantic blood bath.

The screenplay alternates between moments of ghastly violence and sadism and genuinely thoughtful interludes, like the odd friendships that develops between Annie and the gangster and Jimmy and the gangster’s kid. 

If Jimmy seems a sort of dry run for Ted Lasso,  Colter’s erudite gangster is a reprise of his recurring character in TV’s “The Good Wife.” 

Sudeikis gives it the old college try, but I so love his gentle comedy that I felt like he was playing an ex-con in an “SNL” skit…you know, just a second away from donning a silly track suit and doing a goofy dance. It’s hard work reconciling the actor’s affable essence with the avenging angel he becomes in the last reel — like watching Mary Poppins mutate into Steven Segal.

| Robert W. Butler 

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Kristen Wiig, Matt Damon

“DOWNSIZING” My rating: C+ 

135 minutes | MPAA rating:

There’s a work of genius lurking inside “Downsizing,” one that struggles to make itself heard and ultimately loses steam and dribbles away.

Bottom line: The first half of Alexander Payne’s sci-fi/fantasy satire/end-of-the-world warning is pretty wonderful. After that, things get iffy.

In the film’s first moments we’re introduced to the concept of “downsizing” — not corporate layoffs but rather the shrinking of human beings to the size of Barbie Dolls.

Downsizing could be the answer to, well, everything.  An ear of corn could feed a dozen people for a week.  Tiny homes require almost no power to heat and cool efficiently.  Moving around is easy — downsized citizens ride in shoebox-sized containers that can fit easily in a bus or airplane’s overhead rack.

Omaha residents Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig) are initially bemused by this new technology.  But after a decade of hand-to-mouth living they come to the conclusion that downsizing is the key to a prosperous future — especially when it is explained to them that after downsizing their modest savings will translate into millions of dollars.

So they contract to live in a downsized community (a glass dome offers protection from predatory birds). This mini-metropolis takes up only a couple of acres of real-world real estate but, in shrunken form, is the size of greater New York City. Their built-to-order mansion awaits.

The actual process of downsizing is cleverly laid out in Payne and Jim Taylor’s screenplay…and it’s a techno-nerdish wonder. Once sedated, the client’s dental fillings are removed (only organic tissue can be shrunk…a ceramic filling could cause the client’s head to explode).  All body hair is shaved (again, hair follicles are not alive…only the roots).

Once downsized, the comatose clients are moved about on spatulas, like burgers on a short-order grill.

It’s all very amusing, yet weirdly plausible.

Just one problem. Upon awakening Paul learns that Audrey got cold feet at the last minute. She now wants a divorce from her tiny husband and most of  their savings.


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Stephen James (right) as Olympian Jesse Owens

Stephan James (right) as Olympian Jesse Owens

“RACE” My rating: B-

134 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“RACE”  2 1/2 stars   PG-13   134 minutes

Eighty years, a world war and a civil rights revolution later, the story of Olympic track star Jesse Owens still packs a wallop.

Here was an African-American athlete who had to endure racism at home yet became the standard bearer for the American Olympic team at the 1936 Berlin games, winning a record four gold medals.

Owens provided so conclusive a refutation of Nazi racial theories that Adolf Hitler left  the stadium so he wouldn’t be photographed congratulating a black man.

As you’d expect, “Race,” the cleverly-titled film about the ’36 games — is inspiring. But it is also insipid.

When it’s dealing with the big issues of history and race, this film from director Stephen Hopkins (“The Ghost and the Darkness,” “Predator 2” and a ton of TV) generally gets it right, placing Owens’ achievements against a background of discrimination and political upheaval that makes them all the more impressive.

On the level of personal drama, though, “Race” feels like a standard-issue sports movie: not exactly wince-worthy, but cliched and superficial.

But, hey, you can’t be too disappointed in a film that offers as one of its characters the great German documentarist Leni Riefenstahl.

The screenplay by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse alternates between Owens’ personal story — that of a high school track star who wins a scholarship to Ohio State University, sets world records and aims for the Olympics — and the societal and political convulsions of those years.

In the private story line Jesse (“Selma’s” Stephan James) gets tough love from track coach Larry Snyder (KC’s Jason Sudeikis, in his first serious dramatic role). He becomes famous, falls for a fancy lady, then thinks better of it and seeks forgiveness from the hometown gal (Shanice Banton) by whom he has a young daughter.

But it’s pretty obvious that training montages and an unremarkable romance didn’t inspire the screenwriters. What lights their fire is the chance to re-create the world of the 1930s.

For example, at a meeting of the U.S. Olympic Committee, member Jeremiah Mahoney (William Hurt) squares off against chairman Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) over whether, by going to Berlin, American athletes are endorsing Naziism. The scene plays like a moral and intellectual battle of giants. (more…)

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Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie

Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie


101 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Writer/director Leslye Headland describes her new movie as ” ‘When Harry Met Sally’ with assholes.”

That’s accurate as far as it goes.  But I have to admit…I fell in love with these assholes.

The sorta familiar plot is about a guy and a girl — both of whose love lives are, well, challenged — who make a pact to remain platonic best friends.  They will be able to confide to each other the stuff they can tell no one else. But they will not get physical. That would screw up the chemistry.

Jake is a serial  womanizer.  No sooner does he establish a physical intimacy with a new woman than he starts looking for ways to cheat on her. Thing is, he’s so funny and charming that many of Jake’s wronged ladies let the infidelity slide.

Lainey, on the other hand, has been engaged in a long affair with a OB-GYN who uses her for quick, unsentimental sex before returning to his wife. Normally a pretty tough cookie, she’s hopelessly infatuated with this creep. Though she swears she’ll break it off, she keeps drifting back into his orbit.

Jake and Lainey are seriously flawed.  Thank heavens they are portrayed by Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie, who somehow manage to make their characters amusing, entertaining, vulnerable and, ultimately, very romantic.

In a prologue we see Jake and Lainey — college students — losing their virginity to one another. It’s a one night stand, no big deal, and both go their separate ways.

Twelve years later they run into each other at a meeting of sex addicts. (How’s that for a deliciously perverse twist on the old rom-com meet-cute scenario?)

He’s curious about his inability to maintain a monogamous relationship — though hardly committed to changing his ways. She’s dealing with her perennial sexual obsession with the good doctor (Adam Scott, who seems to be everywhere these days).

They agree to be each other’s emotional backboard, someone against whom they can bounce their innermost thoughts about sex and love. When they’re together, Jake and Lainey don’t have to pretend to be anything other than what they are.


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