Indie Focus: ‘Spy’ v ‘Entourage’ and the RomCom you have to see



Hello! I’m Mark Olsen, and welcome to this week’s Indie Focus newsletter.

Think of this as your field guide to a world of Only Good Movies, spotlighting what’s going on in the world of cinema in Los Angeles and the world beyond.

We had an exciting Indie Focus Screening Series event last week with Mia Hansen-Love’s upcoming film “Eden,” about the French electronic dance scene, and a post-screening Q&A with co-writer (and Mia’s brother) Sven Hansen-Love and lead actor Felix De Givry. And I did a video interview with the filmmaker and star at Sundance earlier this year.

On June 15, we’re showing the L.A.-set satire of contemporary couple-dom  “The Overnight.” We’ll have the biggest panel we‘ve had in some time after the movie, including director and screenwriter Patrick Brice, producer Naomi Scott and cast members Judith Godreche, Jason Schwartzman and Adam Scott.

The RSVP page for June 15 event should be active soon. Space is limited, but we like to think it’s worth the effort. Keep up with our Indie Focus Screening Series here:  

Nonstop movies. Movies nonstop.


Anthony Michael Hall, left, Brooklyn Decker, Constance Zimmer, Kevin Corrigan, Cobie Smulders, Andrew Bujalski and Giovanni Ribisi with the film “Results,” premiering as part of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Andrew Bujalski is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. His films strike me as alive in ways that few others are. His new film “Results” is a sneaky, playful take on the romantic comedy and is playing now in Los Angeles and is also available on VOD.

The film weaves a complicated web of feelings and finances among characters played by Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan. I’ll have a story on Corrigan, a veteran character actor taking a rare lead role, appearing soon. I also spoke to Bujalski and his cast when the film premiered earlier this year at Sundance.

But don’t just take my word for it. Grantland critic Wesley Morris called the film “the year’s best American pure comedy -- pure because it’s neither satirical nor farcical, and because there’s been no attempt to affix a can’t-miss genre like ‘spy thriller,’ ‘action film,’ or ‘disaster movie starring Dwayne Johnson.’ “The New Yorker’s Richard Brody noted that “Bujalski is a diabolically clever noticer—or, rather, a creator of droll intimate moments that are worthy of notice.”

‘Love & Mercy’

Musician Brian Wilson photographed at Capitol Records, March 12, 2015. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

We are not-so-secret music nerds around here, which naturally means we are also not-so-secret fans of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.

The film “Love & Mercy” is an unconventional bio-pic that tells Brian’s story as two interwoven halves. In one, Paul Dano plays younger Brian struggling to realize the sounds in his head -- there are terrific scenes re-creating the sessions for the “Pet Sounds” album -- even as others around him think he is heading for a meltdown. In the other half, John Cusack plays an older Brian, trying to emerge from the control of a dodgy doctor (Paul Giamatti) with the help of the woman who would become his wife (Elizabeth Banks).

“Some of it was rough for me to sit through,” Wilson said of the movie to writer Randy Lewis. “It wasn’t always pleasant.”

Playing now, the film was directed by Bill Pohlad from a script written by Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner. Pohlad has said the film's unusual structure was trying to address Wilson's internal conflicts.

“I think every creative person, maybe every person, needs that element of ego or they wouldn’t do something like this. They need that kind of drive,” Pohlad told Steve Zeitchik. “I think Brian has what a lot of us have. He just has it in really intense form.” 

Josh Trank talks

Director Josh Trank lines up a shot on the set of his 2012 film “Chronicle.” (Alan Markfield / 20th Century Fox)

Josh Rottenberg wrote a pair of stories this week in which filmmaker Josh Trank spoke about the controversy surrounding casting choices in his upcoming “Fantastic Four” and addressed for the first time his leaving one of the upcoming “Star Wars” films.

Regarding the “Fantastic Four” controversies, Trank said, “I want to hear opinions -- it’s good to know what people are questioning. I think maybe there’s a part of me that needs adversity from the rest of the world in order to feel motivated to want to prove people wrong. I need people to be like, &lsuo;What is this weirdo doing?’”

Of leaving “Star Wars,” called it “the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life,” while adding, “It’s not healthy for me right now in my life. I want to do something that’s below the radar.”

‘Spy’ versus ‘Entourage’

Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham in “Spy.” (Larry Horricks / 20th Century Fox)

A few weeks back we noted the opening weekend face-off between “Pitch Perfect 2” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” In a strange twist of fate, I reviewed two movies opening this week that might likewise be set up in opposition to one another, “Spy” and “Entourage.” This time it’s even harder to see this as a boys versus girls showdown so much as good versus bad or delightful versus depressing.

Of “Spy,” I said it “may not be a great movie, but it is great fun. And at times it will have you wondering if there's that much of a difference.”

Of “Entourage,” I said “watching it summons that vague blank familiarity of discovering a show you used to watch is unexpectedly still on the air.”

Joe Dante

Director Joe Dante (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Few filmmakers have invested as much in the pure joys of cinema-going, the pleasure of watching movies, as Joe Dante. Having started under the old-school tutelage of Roger Corman, Dante is responsible for “Gremlins,” “The 'Burbs,” “Matinee,” “Innerspace” and many more.

The American Cinematheque is putting on a mini-tribute series, “The Atomo-Vision of Joe Dante,” from Wednesday, June 10, to Sunday, June 14. His latest film, “Burying the Ex,” which stars Anton Yelchin, Alexandra Daddario and Emily Green, will screen on Thursday. 

Susan King spoke to Dante ahead of his Cinematheque tribute. He recalled being at a screening of a rare Mario Bava film once in a theater so sketchy there was a stabbing during the show. “Luckily, they didn’t turn the lights on no matter what happened.”

Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus.