Tag Archives: comedy

Short Takes: Recent Movies

Because of backlog, I’ve compiled ten compact movie reviews into one post, sorted best-to-worst.  I’ll be back with ten more —indies and classics.

(You also have no idea what I feel over that frickin’ attack on Monday.)

Updated: 2013.04.19

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)

Description: a divorced couple
(Andy Samberg, Rashida Jones) are still close friends.  So wildly close that it weirds out their friends.  So they have to meet new people.  But the feelings of getting back together are hard to fight— Celeste wants to, but Jesse heads on into unknown territory.  Emma Roberts also stars, as a pop star.

Take: it’s a modern tale of a pretty convincing friendship.  The acting is great.  And don’t you just love Rashida Jones?

Suggestion: watch…them sufferA-

Flight (2012)

Description: Denzel Washington plays a pilot that manages to save most of the passengers on a jetplane by inverting it before a crash landing.  The only problem: he’s yet to admit to himself that he is an alcoholic…who also does cocaine…and that somehow coke is an upper to the booze downer…and he was drunk for that masterful flight maneuver.  John Goodman also stars (as the dealer).

Take: though incomplete—in my opinion, it’s definitely worth watching.  B+ (was B)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Description: good taste in music supports a tale of a withdrawn student being taken into a band of ‘outcasts’— or, the other cool kids, really.  And our guy falls in love with the Emma Watson character but is held back by his somewhat disturbed past, dealing with misplaced guilt over his aunt’s (Melanie Lynskey) death.

Take: actors acting like actors—it’s not very convincing.  David Bowie’s Heroes does not make up for the movie’s flaws…an entertainment of drama more than a real account, as our lead keeps staring at Watson.  The book’s better.  B

This is 40 (2012)

Description: Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann star in the latest Judd Apatow flim, showing a bit of what it’s like turning the big 4-0, parental troubles et al.

Take: …not really.  It’s loaded and angry, and some of the deleted scenes are better than the shots that were left in (yes, the ‘short poop’ scene is funnier).  You have the Apatow humor, and… everything else that’s not exactly original anymore— it’s long, long, with strong language throughout.  Without Jason Siegel and John Lithgow, the grade for this film would’ve gone into C territory.  B-

Fun Size (2012)

Nickelodeon…literally means nickel(coin)-theater, but this is the Viacom cable network doing a teen movie with Victoria Justice, star of the (canceled) Victorious show.

Description: Justice plays the lead, daughter of a mother (Chelsea Handler) whose boyfriend is 26 and still living with his parents…and throws parties.  On Halloween, the supposedly mute son rides with older men “to have fun,” but was never in any danger.

Take: it’s a movie.  There is a surprise ending, if you’re willing to sit through it.  B-

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Description: Martin Freeman and Ian McKellan star in the latest Peter Jackson film related to [The] Lord of the Rings, where, against Bilbo Baggin’s wishes, he and an assembled group (eating all his food) must enter dark territory to stop a…necromancer?

Take: poorly timed, this was more of a bad trip than a journey.  Loaded with violence, but with bloodless beheadings and throat slittings, somehow, this ‘journey’ yields decades of peace.  I don’t care about the great CGI or whether the film’s true to the book.  It has none of the emotional depth or coherence that the trilogy of ten years ago had.  B-

Taken 2 (2012)

Description: Liam Neeson is back as the father of a formerly-kidnapped daughter, but the tables are turned this time.  The Eastern-European family, seeking revenge for his gruesome killings (Taken), ends up only kidnapping the parents this time.

Take: with an incredibly basic plot of a sequel, the daughter is basically lobbing grenades so the father can pinpoint his location, and the bad guys are so incompetent that they actually leave their gates unlocked.  Spoiler alert.

Suggestion: rent not buy.  The action is still enough to watch this.  C+

Katy Perry: Part of Me—The Movie (2012)

Description: weeks in the concert-performing life of Katy Perry— several songs, performances round the world.  “You’re hot and your cold … We kiss and make up.”

Up and down, peacefully emotional, as Russell Brand was clearly not a match for her.  And that’s…kind’a it.  Basically a movie for fans…and not quite sure about that.  C+

Seven Psychopaths (2012, U.K.)

Description: Sam Rockwell tries to be a writer, and gets caught up in a violent dog-napping scheme, one where Woody Harrelson’s pissed, killing just about everyone in his way.  A number of big-name actors star for big, imagined sequences; it gets ugly.

Take: UGHGGHHhh… in making fun of over-the-top action, it’s one thing to have a sibling go, KA-PoW, Ratatatat… it’s another to have a pro waste your time doing it on the big screen.  I get it, move on!  Like Shoot ’Em Up—but boring—the actors had more fun than the audience.  With Colin Farrell, it’s supposed to be funny…  Yeah…right.  C

Nature Calls (2012)

Description: Patton Oswalt, Patrice O’Neal and Johnny Knoxville star in a “camping” tale where most of the fathers would rather have the children in front of large flat-screens.  Good thing one of them takes the kids camping anyway… without parental consent.

Take: this movie features one of the dumbest screenplays ever penned.  It features a short plot, with bad jokes, including a naked woman on a motorcycle, and adult language throughout—there are under-aged children in this movie, and one’s given a cigarette!

It’s watchable, but it doesn’t even meet with the expectations of the poster.  The Box Office for this thing was $382.  C-

Seriousness and Absurdist Comedy

(Marx Brothers image)
Marx Brothers, 1931: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo

Seriously?  No.  Intentionally Bad.  The Yin/Yang of serious and absurd.

Plainly put, humor is the recognition of the absurd.  There needs to be a working contrast between what isn’t absurd and what is absurd for the humor to even exist.  And to say the least, loading a movie with nothing but super-low-brow comedy…doesn’t work.

The Element of Seriousness

As mentioned in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, the Marx Brothers were serious men that understood the craft of absurdist comedy.  Their Duck Soup (1933), a deliberate comedy, and good enough to make #85 in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all time, inoffensively made light of tragedy in life.

One of those challenges: the subject of war.  Duck Soup would basically say that the only thing that has really changed or improved in the “art” of war is style.  For each generation, a new hat.  The “artists” of war would have better versions of the same weapons used to take human lives.

The audiences in the first half of the twentieth century were a bit up-tight, and wouldn’t understand a lot of the comedy we see today.  They did, however, enjoy cartoons—the universal treat when it comes to humor.  Warner Bros. (Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies) and MGM (Tom & Jerry) mastered that area of humor “over-the-top”—and “adult” for the time, given the violence.

Unintentionally Funny

Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of the funniest bad movies to date because of how unintentionally bad it is.  “Ed Wood” had such a reputation for making Box Office movie bombs that became successful in recent decades.  Another one of his movies featured a very unrealistic scene where a man wrestles a giant, lifeless squid.

I remember laughing maybe the hardest in my life watching the scene in Plan 9 where the undead bodyguard somehow kills one of the other characters by simply throwing both arms down onto the guy’s collar/neck area, knocking him down.  (Undeadly, I tell ya’.)

The ‘cult classic’ The Room, a more recent film loaded with underacting and overacting, also made it onto the list of “awesomely bad movies.”  One that I put on my own list stars Kevin Sorbo: Tales of an Ancient Empire.

Intentionally Bad

Spoofs and parodies come in all shapes and sizes.  Airplane! (parodying Airport, 1970) and Scary Movie (off the likes of Scream, a twist in itself) were incredibly successful.  (And guess which one contained nudity?  The PG former.)

The only problem is, once you go into production of a sequel, just what exactly are you parodying?  The parody?  There are plenty of horrible “comedies” out there that are difficult to watch because the material is stretched so thin.

But there are also the underrated “un-movies” that have a knack for honestly disliking the genre they’re spoofing.  Not Another Teen Movie, for example, is good enough to make frequent appearances on television—albeit the TV-edit version (the line ‘I jacked off on your french toast,’ sung by the chef, was redubbed).

Unfitting Unmovie

Making Casa de mi Padre look like a masterpiece, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012) is as unserious as you can get.  I had to sit through three hours reviewing the whole DVD.  It was a long three hours.  The writing quality and timing—crucial in comedy—are bad here.  The review is the next post.

Liberal Arts: Barely Coming of Age

Liberal Arts, the unrated IFC film starring its writer and director, Josh Radnor, at first seems to take page from Answer This!, given the romance between his character, “Jesse,” and “Zibby” (Elizabeth Olsen), a sophomore and sixteen years his junior.  But Radnor, 38, co-star of How I Met Your Mother, plays an admissions counselor that is easily uninspired by his job and has just broken up with his girlfriend.  After being invited to the retirement party of his favorite professor, Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins), Jesse happily returns to his mid-Western college alma mater to honor the English professor.  Hoberg is not his father, but rather the guy that introduces Jesse Fisher to family friend Zibby, the walking light bulb (avid intellect) that, at her age, loves Twilight, something Jesse considers the worst book ever written in English.

Continue reading Liberal Arts: Barely Coming of Age

liberty to a fictional character?

Book Binder

“If you had the opportunity to control (your partner), would you take it?
What’s the logical end to that scenario?”

Ruby Sparks is the R-rated coming-of-reality story of an introverted man and the character he’s written come to life. The “fractured fantasy,” with satirical elements is both sweet and creepy, as Ruby, the colorful woman of Calvin’s literary, boredom-solving and hole-filling dreams, starts to physically rewrite herself after the initial appeal wears and their ideals clash.
The film stars two twenty-eight-year-olds: the film’s writer, Zoe Kazan, and her off-screen boyfriend of five years, Paul Dano. The parents (Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas) have their own “transformation dilemma,” but with real influences, not alterations via pen or pencil. From the start, Ruby isn’t real; but the consequences are, and Sparks takes on the challenge that separates itself from movies like 500 Days of Summer without, of course venturing off into sci-fi or horror. (It’s a comedy with only one unreal factor.)
Directed by the married couple that did Little Miss Sunshine, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, Ruby Sparks is the first deal in a while that didn’t go wrong. “I couldn’t fathom the idea of coming out with anything I loved less,” Dayton said to Colin Covert, of McClatchy Newspapers. “A film is two years of your life, so you’d better love it deeply and be ready to carry it with you the rest of your life.”
Part of the story’s focus is on a relationship’s losses: the loss of self during, and its end. “I have felt very defined by the person I’m with, by their idea of love and of a person worth loving,” Kazan said to Covert. “In the effort to live up to that in previous relationships, I’ve lost track of myself a little.”
The fantasy of the lover is the reason for the missing background for Ruby. “I feel like we all start with the idea of a person before we get to know them as we fall in love, but it feels somehow different for men than it is for women. That’s reflected in our culture in a movie … where you see the man’s perspective on the relationship and not so much the woman’s.”