Tag Archives: Nicholas Braun

How to Be Single (2016)


How to Be Single immediately brought to mind a couple of other recent films that take a “real” look at love through the lens of an impossibly attractive ensemble cast. You know the ones. He’s Just Not That Into You. Valentine’s Day. Prom. Probably a few others that I’ve either already forgotten or never saw. But while How to Be Single is riddled with problems of its own, it does get points from me where those other films don’t: it’s sometimes funny, and occasionally real.

The set-up is almost too cliched to bother explaining. Alice (Dakota Johnson) is coming off a four-year relationship with Josh (Nicholas Braun) and moves to New York in hopes of “finding herself”. She moves in with her control freak older sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), and befriends her wild new colleague, Robin (Rebel Wilson). This all tenuously links into another side plot concerning Tom (Anders Holm), a lothario bar owner, and Lucy (Alison Brie), his supposedly “charming” and “wacky” upstairs tenant who loiters in his bar for the free wi-fi. Single people. New York. Hijinks.

After a rather dire first half hour spent establishing all of this, the film settles into something a little more interesting as the various relationships start to intertwine and the comedy starts to kick in. Yet, even though both the comedy and drama of this film are intermittently effective, they also never really stop feeling at odds with each other. One minute we’re forced to endure physical comedy gags about somebody dropping their laptop out a window and the next minute poor Dakota Johnson is trying her best to accurately portray the feelings of emptiness and confusion that plagues so many 20-somethings. The film mentions Bridget Jones’s Diary multiple times, which is clearly a strong influence, yet it doesn’t have the wit or the genuinely felt emotional punch to land within the same realm of that rom-com high-water mark.

Before I get too down on How to Be Single, though, I would like to say that it got a few things surprisingly right. It’s not reinventing the rom-com genre by any means, but it DOES semi-boldly reject some of the genre’s most tightly-held tropes. I did like how much emphasis it put on being your own independent person, rather than reinforcing the idea that you need to fall in love and find your “other half” in order to be complete. Especially towards the end of the film, it felt like they were really fighting against some of the traditional values of the genre, and it was refreshing to see a film that champions female friendship and independence over traditional romantic love. (I was pleased to see that two of the three screenwriters are female, and their perspective was very much welcome in a medium where the female voice is usually depressingly absent.)

However, if you’re looking for some great feminist message, this still isn’t going to be your film. I thought the Alison Brie role was especially problematic and just unpleasant, presenting Lucy as a borderline insane person who strikes one note over and over again. We learn nothing about Lucy other than that she’s love-obsessed, and her only two purposes in the film are 1) represent the butt-of-the-joke cliches that they didn’t want to saddle their other female characters with and 2) serve as the catalyst for change for one of the male characters. There are also some definite problems in the way they represent Rebel Wilson’s character in terms of her weight (though they’re certainly not the first film to do so), but Wilson is funny enough that (for better or worse) I found myself forgiving those issues more easily.

Most of the cast here deserves better. (Particularly Jake Lacey, who is given a thankless and bland “love interest” role but somehow still turns in a hugely charming performance.) However, How to Be Single at least tries to explore some different ideas, even if it doesn’t fully succeed at articulating them. I’d rather this kind of movie be moderately ambitious and fall short instead of skating by on the status quo. If you’re looking for a bit of light fun, you could do worse.


Up-and-Coming Actors to Watch: August 2011

With the fall movie season fast approaching, here’s a look at 10 rising actors to watch out for in the fall and beyond.

For more of my picks for up-and-coming actors, be sure to check the archive.

Ezra Miller

Age: 18

Miller got his start playing a troubled, internet-addicted teen in 2008’s Afterschool. He’s since appeared in a couple of ensemble indie films, including City Island and Every Day, where he played the gay son of Helen Hunt and Liev Schreiber.  He’s also appeared on the TV show Californication. His unusual screen presence in these early roles earned him the notice of many critics.

But what really seems to have people excited is his upcoming work. Miller will appear as Tilda Swinton’s disturbed son in the highly-anticipated film, We Need to Talk About Kevin. The movie earned major attention at Cannes, and it will be heading to TIFF this fall. Though the film looks harrowing, Miller’s work looks very promising, judging by early trailers and clips. First, though, he’ll take the titular role as a rogue high school journalist in the intriguing-sounding comedy Beware the Gonzo (which also stars Zoe Kravitz and…um…Jesse McCartney). Miller also has a major role in next year’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which will likely introduce him to a much wider audience. It could be his breakout role.

Dakota Johnson

Age: 21

The striking Dakota Johnson (who happens to be the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) made the most of her one scene as Justin Timberlake’s one-night stand in The Social Network last year. And her screen presence (and yeah, let’s face it, her butt) must have made a big impression on people, because she’s got a slew of upcoming projects.

Johnson already appeared in this year’s Beauty and Beast update, Beastly, and she has a major role in the upcoming fish-out-of-water indie film, Theo. She’ll also appear in the indie drama For Ellen, which stars Paul Dano as a musician looking for custody of his young daughter. But things get really big beyond that, because she’ll appear in comedies such as Goats (with Vera Farmiga, David Duchovny, Keri Russell, Minnie Driver, and Ty Burrell), The Five-Year Engagement (with Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, and Chris Pratt), and Gay Dude (with Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaly, and fellow up-and-comer Nicholas Braun). And she also has a role in the upcoming 21 Jump Street remake with Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum.

Nicholas Braun

Age: 23

Enthusiasts of the tween entertainment have probably had Braun on their radar for a while now. Not only did he appear in the Disney Channel Original movies The Princess Protection Program and Minutemen, but he also had a lead role on the ABC Family show adaptation of 10 Things I Hate About You (he played the Joseph Gordon-Levitt character). As well, he provided some genuine charm to Disney’s big-screen movie, Prom, this year (and if you read my review, you’ll see his performance was one of the major reasons that I somewhat enjoyed the film).

But for those of us who enjoy movies that are targeted towards people above the age of 12, there’s still a good reason to be aware of Braun. He’ll play one of the three teen leads (along with Michael Angarano and Kyle Gallner) in Kevin Smith’s much-discussed Red State, which opens this fall. And Kevin Smith likes Braun so much that he cast him as the star in his next (and final?) directorial project, Hit Somebody. In the film (which will apparently be split into two parts), Braun will play an aspiring hockey player whose true talent lies only in getting into fights. Braun will also play the non-gay half of a duo of friends in Gay Dude (which recently signed Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly for supporting roles). And as if all of THAT wasn’t enough, he also has a small role in next year’s adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a supporting role in Chalet Girl (which stars it-girl to-be Felicity Jones), a leading role as a “Jesus-freak” love interest in Before You Say Goodbye, and a major role in the TV movie Brave New World (which apparently is not Aldous Huxley-related). Whew.

Henry Cavill

Age: 28

Henry Cavill certainly doesn’t need my endorsement, but he’s probably the next Big Thing (or at least, the next Sam Worthington). Now, he’s popped up here and there with supporting roles in films such as The Count of Monte Cristo, Tristan + Isolde, Stardust, and Whatever Works. He was also a regular on The Tudors. He’s had a pretty respectable career already for such a young actor. But none of that holds a light to what’s on the horizon for Cavill.

First, he landed the lead in The Immortals, which is directed by Tarsem Singh (The Fall and The Cell). When you watch the trailers, it’s not at all surprising to hear that the film is by the producers of 300, and I imagine this film will be met with a similarly large audience. And as if one potential franchise wasn’t enough, he also got cast as gosh darn SUPERMAN in The Man of Steel. Since it’s directed by Zack Snyder (he of 300 fame and Sucker Punch, um…notoriety), it’s sure to be visually slick. And even though I’m tiring of superhero movies (didn’t we just have a Superman film?) the supporting cast includes Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon (yay!), and Laurence Fishbourn, so I have to be at least a bit excited. And as if two leading roles weren’t enough, Cavill will also star in an action/conspiracy thriller called The Cold Light of Day with Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver.

Brit Marling

Age: 27

The multi-talented Marling may have first made an impression as Brita’s “lesbian friend” in an episode of Community, but her ambitions clearly stretch far beyond sitcom guest star. Not only does she star in the Sundance hit Another Earth (which is currently playing in limited release), but she also co-wrote the film with director Mike Cahill. And while Another Earth garnered more attention, Marling also starred in and co-wrote another film from this year’s Sundance festival, Sound of My Voice. In that film, Marling plays the leader of a cult who is the target of two documentary filmmakers trying to expose her as a fraud.

After Sundance, Marling was quickly spotted by studio execs, and she’s become one of the most in-demand young actresses working (she was even forced to drop out of contention for the Tom Cruise vehicle One Shot due to scheduling conflicts). She’s set to join a top-notch cast for Robert Redford’s next project, The Company You Keep, which stars Shia LaBoeuf, Susan Sarandon, Redford, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, and Julie Christie. And she’ll appear with Sarandon once again in Arbitage, a financial thriller also starring Tim Roth and Richard Gere.

Miles Teller

Age: 24

Miles Teller made his big screen debut just last year in the critically acclaimed Rabbit Hole, and his aching, muted performance caught the attention of many viewers. He more than held his own alongside Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. And though he may not have a slew of huge projects coming up, Teller is certainly on his way up after that breakout performance.

His biggest (and most unexpected!) film on the horizon is the remake of Footloose, which will hit theatres this fall. Teller will play Willard, a tough-talking (but apparently light-footed) comrade of Ren. Teller also has a couple of smaller comedies in the works. Project X is a teen party comedy by first-time director Nima Nourizadeh, and 21 and Over tells the story straight-laced students who cuts loose (footloose?) on his 21st birthday.

Tom Hiddleston

Age: 30

British actor Tom Hiddleston is no stranger to UK television, but North American audiences got their first taste of his charm in this year’s mega-blockbuster Thor, where he played the brother of Chris Hemsworth. He was also very memorable as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. And if appearing in two of the most talked-about films of the summer wasn’t enough of an introduction, Hiddleston has a few more chances to get people talking.

Hiddleston will star opposite Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea, which is set to play at TIFF this year. He’ll also take a supporting role in Spielberg’s buzzed-about holiday blockbuster, War Horse. He’ll also reprise his role of Loki from Thor for next year’s hugely anticipated superhero extravaganza, The Avengers. Hiddleston’s offbeat charm seems to be striking a chord with American audiences, and I expect to see a lot of him in years to come.

Kaya Scodelario

Age: 19

British actress Kaya Scodelario was a fan favourite as Effieon the teen soap Skins, and that notoriety started to turn into big screen promise when she landed small roles in Moon and Clash of the Titans. But while she’s still sticking mainly with smaller projects in the UK, it seems as though Scodelario is well on her way to building up an interesting career. She has some interesting projects on the horizon.

First (and most notably), she’s taking on a huge task by playing Catherine in the latest adaptation of Wuthering Heights. The film is directed by Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), and I’m very interested to see her take on the classic story. Scodelario will also appear in the British thriller Twenty8k (which stars the underrated Stephen Dillane), a weepy drama about a girl with cancer called Now is Good (which stars Dakota Fanning, the underrated Olivia Williams, and the underrated Paddy Considine), a film about an Iraq veteran who fakes his own death called Invisible, and a teen drama called Stay With Me (where she’ll co-star with Cemetery Junction‘s quirky Tom Hughes). These seem like smart, diverse choices for a young actress, and I imagine that if she gives a worthy performance in Wuthering Heights that will be her ticket for big things.

Bailee Madison

Age: 11

Something is up when a 11-year-old has more IMDB acting credits than a lot of actors three times her age (she has 28 credits, which is more than anyone else on this list). But while Madison charmed her way through small roles in Bridge to Terabithia, Phoebe in Wonderland, and Conviction, it was her work in the 2009 drama Brothers, which struck a chord with most viewers. Playing the petulant daughter of Natalie Portman and Toby Maguire, Madison offered something so rare for a child actor – believability. Her acting was refreshingly natural, and it made for a magnetic performance. It was probably one of the best child performances I’ve seen, so it’s a shame that she hasn’t gotten more meaty projects since then. She shared the screen earlier this year with Adam Sandler in Just Go With It, which, though I haven’t seen it, probably didn’t give her much to work with. But she has at least one project that could be good coming up…

The release of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is just a couple of weeks away, and though it looks like a fairly standard horror flick, there are some promising elements. As well as Madison, it stars Guy Pearce, who almost always makes good movie choices (and is good in everything he picks). It was also co-written by Guillermo Del Toro (who is also a producer), so that should add a bit of zest to it all. Madison’s name even makes it onto the poster, so she’ll probably have the chance to show off some acting here. Beyond that, she’ll be in the comedy Dance of the Mirlitons with Kristen Bell, Chloe Moretz, and Jackie Earle Haley (which might be the most random cast ever), the Corbin Bernsen-directed family drama (huh?) 25 Hill, and Cowgirls n’ Angels (which is not a sequel to Cowboys & Aliens, and sounds…well, awful).

Luke Evans

Age: 32

This guy has 10 upcoming films (and a lot of them are big ones), so let’s get down to it. He’s a Welsh actor who’s done extensive theatre work and appeared in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Robin Hood, Tamara Drewe, and Clash of the Titans. And that’s literally it. No British telelvision. Nothing else.

But that’s about to change. Let’s get the small ones out of the way first. He’s in a Jason Statham action flick called Blitz that’s going straight to DVD in North America, a strange-looking film called Flutter with Joe Anderson, a horror film called No One Lives, a British drama called Ashes with Jim Sturgess, Lesley Manville, and Ray Winstone (which actually sound good), and a leading role in the action film The Amateur American (though production was recently pushed back). BUT first up, this fall he’ll appear as Aramis in The Three Musketeers. Soon after, he’ll play Zeus himself in The Immortals. In 2012, he’ll play a detective in the Poe film The Raven, and he’ll also appear in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as Bard (now I wish I’d finished that book so I knew who “Bard” is). And in 2013, of course he has the sequel, The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

So there’s my latest batch of actors to watch. For previous lists of up-and-comers, click here. If you have any suggestions for actors you’d like to see featured, feel free to leave a comment!

Prom (2011)

The thing that I most remember from my prom is not the mediocre food, the ugly dresses, or even the general awkwardness of the whole affair. It is, instead, the part where we all waited to go into the reception hall where the prom was held. Because while most people arrived on time and somewhat inconspicuously in their limos and cars, one large group of students (who I will immaturely refer to as the “popular” people) pulled up in front of the entire graduating class, after everyone else had arrived, in a giant, noisy party bus. They then proceeded to individually exit said bus. Each one got their drunken, wobbly moment to shine. And for some reason, everyone felt obligated to actually give them the satisfaction of watching.

So when the impeccably coifed teens in Disney’s Prom repeatedly waxed poetic on how prom “brings people together” and how “for one night, it doesn’t matter who you were during for the past four years”, you’ll have to excuse me if I snickered a little. And a good portion of Prom is equally as naive and trite as those baseless pronouncements. But as flawed as the film may be, I still found it enjoyable on some strange level.

The plot of Prom is somehow both overly complicated and mind-numbingly simple. The main character, Nova (because apparently that’s a name now), played by Aimee Teegarden, is the up-tight, overachieving head of the prom committee. And by a string of events that literally make no sense, the school “bad boy”, Jesse (played by a young Johnny Depp Thomas McDonell) is roped into helping her prep the school gymnasium for the social event of the year.

Along the way, a smattering of Nova’s friends get their own underdeveloped storylines about finding dates for the prom, and a couple of charming underclassmen, Lucas and Corey (Nolan Sotillo and Shameless’ Cameron Monghan), put their friendship to the test when one of them pursues a blandly attractive classmate, Simone (Danielle Campbell).

Does this sound familiar? Does it perhaps remind you of 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You? Well, I would not blame you at all if it did, because they are basically the same movie. Teegarden, McDonell, and Sotillo are all sighs and sass while they do their best Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt impressions, respectively, but none of them achieve anything nearly as lively as the original trio managed to. Teegarden is grating (as she is on Friday Night Lights) thanks to her unrelentingly affected acting style, while the two male leads here are vaguely charming but ultimately forgettable.

The one cast member who stood out to me (and not merely because of his towering stature) was Nicholas Braun. As the charmingly awkward character of Lloyd, Braun (who coincidentally played the Joseph Gordon-Levitt role on the ill-conceived TV update of 10 Thing I Hate About You) has a natural sense of humour that shines through on screen. Lloyd is disconnected from the rest of the characters, and his scenes play out almost like short comedy sketches. In fact, that self-contained comedic character was the one thing in Prom that harkened back to some of the classic 1980’s teen movies. Think of the paperboy in Better Off Dead or Long Duck Dong, the family’s exchange student in Sixteen Candles, and you’ve kind of got Lloyd. Thanks to Braun’s easy charisma and some fairly successful situations that the writers constructed for him, Lloyd was one of the saving graces of Prom.

That’s not to say that the rest of the film is worthless, though, because it’s actually better than I had expected. To start with, I have to give the filmmakers credit for largely avoiding easy pratfalls and gross-out humour. And while yes, there is a lot of truly cheesy dialogue (at one point a character earnestly states, “And now I am in this tree…and you’re beautiful.”), there are also some moments that turn out more charmingly than they have any right to. Lucas and Corey’s unfettered love of rock music strikes a familiar note for any semi-outsider who signed their lives over to music during high school, and the underused character of Rolo (a typical “stoner” character, minus the pot) comes out with some legitimately strange, fascinating, and witty observations (and creates a pretty awesome Facebook profile picture along the way).

Prom builds momentum as it goes, and by the time the kids actually get to the dance, somehow I kind of found myself caring about it all. The movie is clearly aimed at pre-teen girls who are yet to experience their own proms (and thus may not realise how unrealistic everything in the movie is), but it’s kind of a fun ride along the way. Much like the occasion that it’s named after, Prom is a perfectly pleasant experience if you leave your expectations at the door and just go along for the ride.