Kristen Wiig

Film Review: Downsizing

by Chris Piper on December 22, 2017

Having your tiny cake and eating it, too

Matt Damon (l.) plays Paul Safranek and Jason Sudeikis plays Dave Johnson in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.

“Going small” is not a goal often associated with the dreams of mainstream America, but what if going small meant maintaining a lavish, upper middle-class, suburban lifestyle with all the trimmings? This deceptively simple idea underlies Downsizing, Alexander Payne’s newest film, starring Matt Damon, Hong Chau, and Christoph Waltz. The film presents enough imagination and asks enough questions to launch a series, but it never figures out what it’s trying to say.

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A profound examination of religious faith — buried deep, deep within a hilariously crude, offensive, foul-mouthed animated film.

Oh, sh*t, these foods are f**cking foul-mouthed!

Oh, sh*t, these foods are f**cking foul-mouthed!

Imagine if Toy Story was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and then sprinkled with a dash of Caligula. Even that probably doesn’t quite capture just how far Sausage Party goes in terms of it’s R-related language and content (supposedly it came close to an NC-17 rating, until they toned it down — yes, toned it down!). As advertised, the cast and creators of This is the End are back, this time to infuse their stoner, ultra-sexualized, black comedy into an animated feature. Sausage Party goes a step beyond just shock-value to deliver its laughs, serving a healthy does of side-splitting puns, curse-words, pop culture references, and hilarious characters. But Sausage Party is also an incredibly clever film. It disguises it’s more contemplative themes of divinity, the existence of an afterlife, and the triviality of religious tensions within the entertaining muck of a hilariously perverse one-note culinary joke — that anthropomorphic foods discover that they’re all doomed to be devoured by humans.

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Ghostbusters panders then panders some more, and only delivers when embracing its own originality.

Mighty ghostbustin' foursome.

Mighty ghostbustin’ foursome.

It’s obvious, or maybe just to me, that director/writer Paul Feig was under serious pressure to cater his entire effort in relauching Ghostbusters to the fans of the original films. Possibly due to the stupid backlash against the production for casting four women in the lead roles, and for the sake of protecting a cherished 80s title, Feig decided to include an unfathomable amount of shout-outs, throwbacks, and cameos alluding to the original Ghostbusters films. The cast, and Feig, are incredibly talented. The best moments of the new Ghostbusters film happen when the original 80’s films are out of its sights, and instead, it embraces the comedic timing and inventive action that the actors and director are each capable of, respectively.

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Film Review: Zoolander 2

by Gordon Elgart on February 12, 2016

Yet another piece of evidence that comedy sequels don’t work.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson tell it like it is in Zoolander 2.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson telling it like it is in Zoolander 2.

Zoolander 2 (also seen in some advertising as 2oolander or Zoolander No. 2) starts with an exciting chase scene. Some mysterious figures on motorcycles are chasing a man in a hooded sweatshirt. They catch up to him in an alleyway, and riddle him with bullets. As he takes bullet after bullet in a shot that continues for 10-15 seconds, the audience goes from laughter to applause. Why? Because it’s Justin Bieber. That’s the comedic currency of this entire movie: celebrity cameos as punch lines.

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Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2015

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2015. Here is Carrie’s list, presented in alphabetical order. (And you can find Chad’s here.)

1.) Brooklyn

Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) shares a tender moment with boyfriend Tony (Emory Cohen).

The immigrant experience in America is exquisitely captured in director John Crowley’s finely crafted film about love, loss, and longing in 1950s Brooklyn. Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, Nick Hornby’s screenplay presents us with the intrepid young Irish woman Eilis, who leaves her family in the Irish countryside for adventure and opportunity in New York. Saoirse Ronan suberbly conveys Eilis’s gradual shift from shy newcomer to confident cosmopolitan. Called back home for a family emergency, Eilis must choose between familiar comforts and new possibilities, and Ronan depicts Eilis’s struggle with heartrending openness and aching honesty. Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, as competing suitors on opposite sides of the Atlantic, also deliver strong, sharply drawn performances.

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Film Review: The Martian

by Carrie Kahn on October 2, 2015

Scott captures our imagination with riveting survival story

Abandoned astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) checks out his Martian surroundings.

No movie better exemplifies Kurt Vonnegut’s assertion that “science is magic that works” than Ridley Scott’s engaging new film The Martian. Based on Andy Weir’s novel of the same name, Scott’s picture is less a fantastical science fiction story like his Alien or Blade Runner, and more a pure and utterly gripping survival story, in the vein of pictures like Castaway or even 127 Hours. Only here, our hero isn’t trapped somewhere with the luxury of oxygen like a canyon in Utah or a remote tropical island, but years away from any human help, alone in outer space, on the inhospitable planet Mars.

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SFIFF58 Spotlights #7: Welcome to Me/Very Semi-Serious/Two Shots Fired

May 6, 2015

The 58th San Francisco International Film Festival closes tomorrow, Thursday, May 7th, but that still leaves you time to see some films, including the closing night film, Experimenter (with Winona Ryder in attendance for the Q&A!). The screening is at 7:00pm at the Castro Theatre, and info and tickets are available here. In the meantime, […]

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Film Feature: Carrie’s Top 10 Films of 2014

January 1, 2015

Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2014 Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2014. Here is Carrie’s list, presented in alphabetical order. And you can see Chad’s list here. 1.) Boyhood Filmed intermittently over 12 years, Richard Linklater’s film chronicling a […]

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Spinning Platters Interview: Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig & Craig Johnson, “The Skeleton Twins”

September 9, 2014
www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQJ6vb-Pzb8

At the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, I sit with a group of other writers around a table as the audible antics begin approaching outside the door.  SNL veterans Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, along with director Craig Johnson, are splitting each others’ sides with jokes and voices.  They are tired and somewhat giddy from a […]

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Film Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

June 13, 2014
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9a4PvzlqoQ

A worthy return to Berk, where the kids are all grown up now. In 2010, How to Train Your Dragon surprised audiences with its incredible cinematography and emotionally resonant central relationship between a young nerdy Viking, Hiccup, and Toothless, the elusive and dangerous Night Fury dragon.  Nearly 4.5 years later we are treated to the follow-up, How […]

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