Road Hard
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Nudity, sexuality and language.
Theater: St. Anthony Main. Adam Carolla, the film’s director, writer and star, will appear after Friday’s 9:30 p.m. show for an audience Q & A.


It’s a truth universally accepted that funnymen are crying inside. This engaging, funny, affecting comedy about career fatigue and unsatisfying relationships feels like the love child of Louis C.K. and Judd Apatow, who specialize in great sad-sack standups. It’s produced, written, directed by and stars Adam Carolla, a middle-aged stand-up and broadcast veteran playing a character not unlike himself — Bruce, a funny former TV star on a downward trajectory.

Even at this late stage, he’s still learning how to deal with hotel no-smoking rules, gigs that pay less than the stingy manager promised, and women who find him more interesting than attractive. Now trying to pay his daughter’s college tuition with a shabby cross-country tour, Bruce is facing autumnal problems he never expected when he was a promising young comedian of tomorrow. Like living in his garage while his ex-wife (Illeana Douglas, unforgettably funny in “Ghost World”) and her new boyfriend (David Koechner, the endlessly stupid Champ in the “Anchorman” films) occupy his L.A. home’s massive living space. Larry Miller is a hoot playing Bruce’s glad-handing agent, an entertainment manager with a fixation on undressed starlets. Diane Farr, as a grown-up woman living in the real world, suggests how Bruce’s life might improve if he has extremely good luck. Comedy veterans Dana Gould and Howie Mandel as dark versions of themselves, imply what might happen if he doesn’t.

Carolla shows a gift for combining a broadly naturalistic perspective with stiletto-sharp verbal humor. While trying to navigate toward elusive happiness and fleeting fulfillment hurts, Carolla delivers plenty to laugh about.


Human Capital
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Nudity, sexuality and language. In subtitled Italian.
Theater: Lagoon.


Paolo Virzi’s electrifying film is a murder mystery. The main question is, Who killed Italian society? The story begins with a Christmastime traffic accident that leaves a bicycling waiter dead near a hedge-fund manager’s luxury mansion. Each suspect delivers stabs of financial bloodshed that push others across the spectrum of humanity to the breaking point. Told in four parallel chapters, it introduces a half-dozen dynamic characters who see their emotional, social or material market values as their lifelines.

The stories unfold from winter through summer, with strikingly photographed rural vistas housing every operatic twist. The surprises are huge and at times heartbreaking, with each opening episode ending on a tense cliffhanger. Virzi brings us through the opening crisis and its aftermath with scenes that reprise events from different viewpoints, creating the kind of gradually focused story any detective fan loves.

After a group of senior prep schoolers and their parents drive home individually from an evening gala, it seems clear one of the party collided with a departing server. As the police dig deeper into the circumstances, partnerships based on investments, secret affairs and family connections fray. Some possible suspects are hedge-fund elitists (with Fabrizio Gifuni and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as stunningly dressed stuffed shirts). Others, like the town’s ambitious real estate agent (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), would do anything a would-be investor could to enter their exclusive club. In this pack, both top dogs and underdogs bite hard.


Unfinished Business
⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for some strong risqué sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use.


Long-suffering businessman Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) decides to go into business for himself and invites his colleagues to join him in revolt. Tim (Tom Wilkinson) has just been laid off, so, what the heck? And Mike (the insufferable Dave Franco) has no experience except at Foot Locker.

Vaughn plays it straight, going for a frustrated slow burn. Mike is meant to wring laughs out of mispronunciations of simple words. Tim is an old man who just wants to “experience joy” for once. He’s the one willing to drive this business trip into “Hangover” territory, hiring sex workers and trying Ecstasy at a Berlin youth hostel.

The desperation spills from the characters and story — a gay fetish festival in Berlin, a rave at the hostel — and into the filmmaking. “Unfinished Business,” the second film Vaughn has done with the slow-footed and sentimental Canadian Ken Scott (“Delivery Man”), groans under the weight of expected laughs, expectations that are rarely met.
ROGER MOORE, Tribune News Service