Thanks to movies along the lines of a Valentine's Day or a New Year's Eve or heaven forbid a Movie 43, all-star ensembles can often conjure up some pretty terrible thoughts. But don't let the casting news for Shawn Levy's adaptation of Jonathan Tropper's funny, heartbreaking 2009 novel This Is Where I Leave You give you cause for concern: this isn't going to be Garry Marshall's Sitting Shiva.
No, the movie looks like it's on the path to becoming a well-cast eccentric family drama on par with the likes of, say, Silver Linings Playbook. Hell, I'm gonna just go ahead and say it, this looks like it has even more on-point casting than the Oscar-winner. In fact, the film is shaping up to have one of the best big name ensembles in years. Case in point: Entertainment Weekly broke the news that all-around perfect human/Mrs. Tami Taylor (one in the same, really) Connie Britton has been announced as the latest addition to the already-stellar cast.
Tropper's story (which, you should read if you haven't already — it's a sad, sexy, and often hilarious book) revolves around a Jewish family sitting Shiva for their recently-deceased father at the home of their mother (played by Jane Fonda). The wildly different, screwed-up, but good-at-the-core Foxman siblings are at the center of the story — played by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver — but the supporting characters boast equally impressive names.
Britton will play the girlfriend of Driver's character, the youngest of the brood and the black sheep. A therapist, her character can deconstruct the Foxman clan with pinpoint precision, but can't seem to see that her too-young boyfriend won't give her the grown-up relationship she wants.
Adding to the on-the-nose casting of This Is Where I Leave You is Timothy Olyphant as the Foxmans' neighbor who once suffered a brain injury and was Fey's character's first great love; Kathryn Hahn as Stoll's sexually frustrated wife; Rose Byrne as Bateman's potential new love interest (in addition to dealing with his father's death, his character also has to come to grips with his estranged, pregnant wife played by Abigail Spencer); and Ben Schwartz as their rabbi (Rabbi Jean-Ralphio in the mix!) in the Warner Bros. project.
Supporting characters still apparently up for grabs: the shock jock boss with whom Bateman's wife has an affair, and the Olyphant character's mother, who is close to the Foxman matriarch. (Looking at you, Aaron Eckhart and Kathy Bates!) This Is Where I Leave You, which also has Tropper on board as the screenwriter (always a smart move with adaptations), is reportedly scheduled to begin shooting with its A-list cast in May. Its eventual release date can't come soon enough.
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It's hard to become famous as a writer these days, especially as a good writer. Somehow David Sedaris has managed to do it (even if it is his sister Amy who appears on Letterman) with his books like and his essays in such respected periodicals as The New Yorker. However none of been made into a movie. Well, at least until now. C.O.G. which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival shows us why. Stories don't always make the best movies.
Based on one of his stories from the book Naked, this is the first time Sedaris has given permission to a filmmaker, in this case Kyle Patrick Alvarex to turn a story into a feature film. This essay shows David (played by Glee's Jonathan Groff) going to Oregon to work in an apple orchard to see how the other half lives. He changes his name to Samuel (of course, like a gay person, he is David and not Dave, Samuel and not Sam) and sleeps with the Mexican apple pickers. He eventually gets a promotion to the apple factory where he gets promoted again thanks to his new friend Curly (Corey Stoll). When David won't have sex with Curly he flees into the arms of unbalanced evangelist John (the always wonderful Dennis O'Hare) where he has to denounce his homosexuality and embrace god into his atheist heart.
The reason that many people read Sedaris is for the crazy situations he puts himself in, the humor that he gets out of them, and his off-kilter persona. Those are all present in the movie, and Groff does a wonderful job as a prissy Yale alum in this blue collar world. But there are other reasons to read Sedaris, like the insight he takes from his crazy situations. That is not in this movie at all. A long slog that should be a light series of events, David/Samuel never learns a lesson and we don't learn anything about him or about ourselves from start to finish. There is a lot of moving, but there is no journey.
My biggest problem though is that the central incident of the story, a night where Curly tries to have sex with David and he refuses thus putting him into peril is not believable at all. First of all, David has been flirting with Curly since before they even met. Secondly, Curly is crazy hot. He is the kind of butch factory trade that gay men from Broadway to West Hollywood dream about coming on to them in one of these situations. Why does David change his mind? Since that doesn't make sense, neither does anything that comes after.
But the main reason why people read Sedaris, of course, is the writing itself. He is a masterful craftsman of language. While some of the patter we can imagine he had in real life is evident in the movie (particularly the more engaging first half) his words are, of course, missing. Without that, the center does not hold. When the thing that made Sedaris famous is gone what we're left with is just another tale of a spoiled kid who never learns, and that isn't enough to get our attention.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
The Starz series Boss is adding two names to its regular cast for an upcoming second season: Jonathan Groff—most recognizable as the unforgivable Jesse St. James on Glee—and Sanaa Lathan, of Love and Basketball, Alien vs. Predator and Contagion. Groff will take on the role of a young staffer in the mayoral office of Tom Kane (series star Kelsey Grammer), replacing Martin Donovan’s character. Lathan will play a new chief of staff who, unlike her boss, has a staunch sense of ethics. It is suggested that the presence and patterns of Lathan’s character Mona will stir up a good deal of trouble between her and Kane. -Deadline
Glenn Howerton is known best as the selfish, vain and manipulative Dennis Reynolds—one of the main characters of an FX favorite, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Following in the footsteps of his onscreen father Danny DeVito, who stars in the upcoming animated feature The Lorax, Howerton will try out voice acting on the new series Unsupervised. FX’s animated comedy, created and produced by Howerton and several other Always Sunny figures, will feature the actor playing five different characters spread out over two upcoming episodes. It should be something worth checking out—Howerton can definitely put his vocal chords to good use. Unsupervised stars Justin Long and Kristen Bell, and airs Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
Netflix’s original political intrigue series House of Cards already has some big names attached to it: Kevin Spacey is in the starring role as the vengeful Rep. Frank Underwood, and David Fincher is directing and producing. The series is now bringing Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Salt) to play Congressman Patrick Russo: a vice-ridden politician with a weakness for drinking and women; he employs the services of Underwood to escape fiasco after he is apprehended with a prostitute. House of Cards is based on the 1990 British series of the same name. - Deadline