Tag Archives: Nick Offerman

Terminally Cool

Young stars shine in fresh, quirky coming-of-age comedy-drama

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Olivia Cook, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler

Me & Earl & the Dying Girl

Starring Thomas Mann, Olivia Cook and RJ Cyler

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

PG-13

A movie with “dying girl” in its title would seem to be giving you a pretty big spoiler right up front.

But don’t let thinking you know what’s going to happen keep you away from the many delights, heart pangs and sweet surprises of this fresh, quirky comedy-drama, the big hit at last summer’s Sundance Film Festival now spreading into the movie mainstream.

Based on author Jessie Andrews’ award-winning 2013 debut young-adult novel, Me & Earl & The Dying Girl unfolds through its central character, Greg (Thomas Mann), who narrates. He begins, “This is the story of my senior year in high school and how it destroyed my life—and how I made a film so bad it killed someone.”

Intrigued? You should be.

Greg, who’s cruised through high school by avoiding close friendships with just about anyone while breezily associating with just about everyone, has only one real buddy, Earl (RJ Cyler). Greg and Earl have been “associates”—Greg can’t bear to use the word “friends”—since childhood, bonding over classic movies and making their own low-budget parodies. Their video mini-masterpieces include Gross Encounters of the Turd Kind, Senior Citizen Kane and A Sockwork Orange.

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Connie Britton & Nick Offerman

Greg’s mom and dad (Connie Britton of TV’s Nashville and the wonderfully dry Nick Offerman from Parks and Recreation) inform him that one of his classmates, Rachel (Olivia Cook of Bates Motel), is dying of cancer—and it sure would be nice if Greg reached out to her. Greg isn’t keen on the idea, and neither is Rachel. But soon the ice between them begins to melt, Rachel begins to dig Greg and Earl’s oddball movies, and Greg begins his next cinematic subject—featuring Rachel. But completing it becomes harder than he thought.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, making his second feature film after a run of TV (Glee, American Horror Story), has a real feel for the material with a keen visual style that captures the story’s emotional swirl and its spectrum of teen alienation, attraction, anger, angst, frustration, whimsy

Olivia Cooke as

and wisdom. Subplot threads about a super-cool history teacher (Jon Bernthal) and Greg’s college application process tie up neatly—and significantly—at the end. And the terrific young actors (who actually range in age from 20 to 25) flesh out their characters with relaxed, natural performances that never feel forced, fussy, sappy, goofy or unnecessarily dramatic.

It’s up at times, down at others, ultimately life-affirming and bustling with originality, even while it traverses somewhat familiar teenage territory: Think The Fault in Our Stars crossed with Napoleon Dynamite with just a pinch of The Breakfast Club for seasoning. It may remind you of other things, but it’s definitely got it’s own chill, cool, youthful, coming-of-age vibe.

Just give into it, go with it and let it take you where it leads you—and don’t caught up in thinking that you already know where that will be.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Back To School

Bumbling drug-busting cop duo returns for hilarious higher-ed hijinks

Jonah Hill;Channing Tatum

22 Jump Street

Starring Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill

Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

R, 112 min.

 

In a summer of sequels, the most laughs so far, and by far, come from a raunchy retro repeat that makes plenty of fun of its own recycled folly—and expense.

And it totally works. A follow-up to the 2012 hit comedy 21 Jump Street, a big-screen parody of the TV series of the late 1980s, this do-over reunites the duo of Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), bumbling undercover-cop partners again trying to pass themselves off as students, only this time at a college instead of a high school.

The silly shoestring of a plot involves Jenko and Schmidt’s task to break up a dangerous drug pipeline called “WhyPhy,” which has caused the death of a coed. But that’s really just a loosey-goosey framework for a goofy R-rated grab bag of jokes, puns, sight gags and riffs, many of which are truly hilarious, as the two would-be students try to infiltrate campus life.

Channing Tatum“I’m the first person from my family to pretend to go to college,” says Jenko.

Most of the humor revolves around their attempts at blending in, especially since everyone notices immediately how much older they are than everyone else. (“Tell us about the war—any one of them,” prods one student.) But Schmidt impresses his classmates at an improv slam-poetry event (“Jesus died, runaway bride” is one of his on-the-fly couplets), and Jenko relives his teenage fantasy of becoming a football star, befriending the school’s dude-ish quarterback (Wyatt Russell, the son of Goldie Hawn and Curt Russell) and setting up a “bro-mantic triangle” subplot.

Jonah Hill;Channing TatumPatton Oswald pops up in one scene as a professor trying to coax coherent thoughts out of Tatum’s character’s thick head, and the Comedy Central duo of the Lucas Brothers, identical twins Kenny and Keith, make the screen hum with groovy energy every second they’re onscreen as laid-back, comically synchronized roommates.

Returning as Capt. Dickson, rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube still gets howls with his scowl and plays a pivotal role in one of the movie’s funniest scenes—a “gotcha” that truly sneaks up on you, which is a testament to the craft of returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose other collaborations include Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The LEGO Movie.

A recurring theme is an in-joke about just how lazy (and pricey) it is to just do the same thing over again—in this case, the same characters, same plot, same directors. “Exactly like last time,” dryly notes Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman from TV’s Parks and Recreation.

1178499 - 22 Jump StreetA chase across the campus—with drug lords in a Hummer pursuing Jenko and Schmidt in a little cart with an enormous football helmet “cab”—destroys everything in its path. At one point, the cart comes to a split: Which way should it go?

“Whichever way’s cheaper!” Jenko shouts.

The bawdy comedy tap runs wide open in 22 Jump Street. It may be a ridiculously expensive retread, but man, just about every jolly dollar gets a laugh.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Everything is Awesome

Sharp, smart writing, gonzo wit and the pursuit of special-ness

LEGO

The Lego Movie

Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman & Elizabeth Banks

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

PG-13, 100 min.

Since their introduction in Denmark in 1949, Lego construction toys have spread all over the world, across multiple generations and throughout the reaches of pop culture. In addition to almost endless varieties of play sets, characters and components, there are also Lego videogames, Lego clothes, Lego competitions, and Lego amusement parks in Europe, North America and Asia.

Now there’s a Lego movie—and more people have seen it than any other film in America since it opened earlier this year.

Clearly, Legos are immensely popular playthings. But The Lego Movie is also an exceptionally well-done, wildly entertaining piece of family-friendly fare, a rare piece of work that engages both grownups and kids with a sharp, smart writing, gonzo wit and a story that bridges cross-generational audiences.

000048.0027807.tifBrilliant digital animation creates a teeming, brick-by-brick Lego world—several of them, in fact—and a sprawling cast of Lego characters: Emmet (Chris Pratt), a everyday, by-the-book construction worker nubbin who may—or may not—be the fulfillment of a long-ago prophesy foretold by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a blind seer; Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a beautiful female resistance fighter; Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), a walking maritime junkyard of a pirate; Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum) and the Green Lantern (Jonah Hill); Lord Business (Will Farrell), an evil control freak who wants to micro-manage everything and everyone; and Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), a literally two-faced law-enforcement officer.

Co-directors and writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose growing collaborative résumé includes the movies 21 Jump Street and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and TV’s How I Met Your Mother and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, weave themes of creativity, independence and cooperation into a story that runs on a crazy rail of nearly nonstop pop-cultural riffs and satirical references, understated comedic nuance as well as explosively absurd visual magic, and just the right tones of subversive cool for a movie that needs to appeal to children as well as parents.

LEGO

Early in the movie, Emmet gets in his Lego car, turns on the radio and hears a song, “Everything is Awesome.” It’s meant to be a big supersonic joke, an ironic mantra-like jab about conformity in a place where being mindlessly happy is mandatory. But it’s infectious as all get-out, and it becomes the movie’s theme. (It’s performed by the Canadian indie duo Tegan and Sara and the comedy-rap group the Lonely Island, and produced by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.)

And like the interlocking pieces of the gazillions of Legos it would have taken to make this movie if it weren’t for the digital magic of computer animation, the song just fits. Yep, in this joyous, joke-filled parable about the joy of making stuff, the power of imagination and the pursuit of special-ness, everything pretty much is awesome.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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