Unhappy Families

This Is Where I Leave You: adapted by Jonathan Tropper from his own novel; directed by Shawn Levy; starring Jason Bateman (Judd Altman), Tina Fey (Wendy Altman), Jane Fonda (Hillary Altman), Adam Driver (Phillip Altman), Rose Byrne (Penny Moore), Corey Stoll (Paul Altman), Kathryn Hahn (Annie Altman), Connie Britton (Tracy Sullivan), and Timothy Olyphant (Horry Callen) (2014): Affable, sitcomesque family dramedy with a likable cast and some sharp writing. It’s a good time-filler, and the first time I’ve ever actually liked Adam Driver. Lightly recommended.

The Judge: written by David Dobkin, Nick Schenk, and Bill Dubuque; directed by David Dobkin; starring Robert Downey Jr. (Hank Palmer), Robert Duvall (Joseph Palmer), Vera Farmiga (Samantha Powell), Billy Bob Thornton (Dwight Dickham), Vincent D’Onofrio (Glen Palmer), and Jeremy Strong (Dale Palmer) (2014): Robert Downey Jr. plays Robert Downey Jr., the quick-witted heel with a heart of gold, in this family drama. Robert Duvall plays his stern, distant father, a county court judge accused of a murder that occurred on the same day as the funeral for Duvall’s wife of 50 years. Family secrets and old resentments surface: Downey Jr. hasn’t returned to his small Indiana hometown since college. Does he have an old girlfriend? Yes! The acting is pretty much uniformly superb while the writing comes and goes. But wow, does Indiana ever go to trial quickly! No backlog there! They’re already in the courtroom before anyone’s looked at security footage from a relevant gas station! Lightly recommended.

Space Station 76: written by Jack Plotnick, Sam Pancake, Jennifer Elise Cox, Kali Rocha, and Michael Stoyanov; directed by Jack Plotnick; starring Patrick Wilson (Captain Glenn), Liv Tyler (Lieutenant Jessica Marlowe), Marisa Coughlan (Misty), Matt Bomer (Ted), Jerry O’Connell (Steve), Kylie Rogers (Sunshine), Kali Rocha (Donna), and Keir Dullea (Mr. Marlowe) (2014): Extraordinarily odd mix of satire and relationship drama that takes place on a space station, and in a future, meant to resemble the worlds of Space: 1999, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and perhaps a touch of first-season Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Everyone’s got a problem, from a Captain struggling with his own closeted homosexuality to a little girl struggling with a mother hamster that keeps eating her own babies. This is not the laugh-out loud parody its own ads seemed to be selling, though I did laugh out loud several times (Matt Bomer’s klunky 70’s robot hand keeps stealing the show). The stars are all quite charming. Oh, and I also laughed out loud when the standard 1970’s tri-colour hologram showed up. That’s attention to historical detail! Recommended.

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