Tag Archives: Comedy

Frances Ha (2012)

“Frances Ha” is admittedly not normally my type of movie, but I was sporadically entertained by its down-to-earth charm. Filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who skyrocketed to indie fame after acquainting us with a cast of outrageously cruel, petty, narcissistic characters in “The Squid and the Whale” (I guess I’ve made my stance clear on that movie,) squares in on the lifestyle of the big-city intellectual again in “Frances Ha,” but at least now the characters are tolerable.

Greta Gerwig gives a amiable performance as well-meaning, somewhat ditzy college grad Frances Halladay, who aspires to make it as a dancer. Her BFF is the bespectacled and kind of bitchy Sophie (Mickey Sumner,) and and two are as devoted as two friends ever were. When Sophie prepares to move to Japan with her boyfriend who she doesn’t really love, ‘Patch’ (Patrick Heusinger,) Frances feels lost without her best friend, and her life starts to veer off the the tracks.

Not a lot happens in this film. What’s special about it is the real-life quality of the acting and dialogue. However, I did not like this as much as similarly naturalistic “Wendy and Lucy” because there was no high drama. I know, not every life contains a lot of intense drama. But in that movie Michelle Williams was struggling to keep her head above water financially and her fight to provide for her and her dog. She has a goal. Live. Or starve. We can’t look away.

Frances simply flounders. She complains about money, but scrounges up enough to take a trip to Paris where she never leaves her apartment. She lives with two hipsters for a while and it seems like something romantic is going to happen with one of them, but nothing ever does. She wants to dance, but lacks the talent to make it happen. Frances is a nice girl, but the film lacks immediacy.

However, there are pleasures to be had from watching this movie. There is something to be said for getting entangled in a characters life, uneventful as it might be. Frances is a well-written character, and all the side characters seemed real. The down side- the astonishingly tasteless moment when drunken Sophie *SPOILER WARNING* stoically describes the miscarrying of her unwanted baby as ‘cool’ *END OF SPOILER*. Ouch. It’s hard to have sympathy for her after that.

I like the way this movie deals with the everyday awkwardness of relationships. The social difficulties Frances faces never seem forced or exaggerated. Anyone who has said something they later wish they hadn’t (that’s everybody,) drunk or sober, can relate to Frances. The film chronicles little moments on Frances’ journey to become a self-made woman. I’m down with that. I just wish the story had been a little more arresting.

Note- This film is in black and white. Resident whiners and trolls beware. No it is not in color. No we do not need to hear how ‘behind-the-times’ or ‘pretentious’ the filmmaker is. You have been warned.

Movie 43 (2013)

Though hardly a consistently funny film, “Movie 43” is, astonishingly, not a complete and utter miss. It is a hit-and-miss spectacle around the lines of 2013’s “The ABCs of Death,” with a comedy rather than horror theme. At it’s worst, it’s still a lot better than the worst “ABCs of Death” had to offer.

The plot is loosely and crudely constructed, with an emphasis on ‘crude.’ The jokes consistently base themselves on shock value and poor taste, with sometimes funny results. This is an anthology film, and the segments all base themselves around this premise- wimpy schmuck Griffin (Greg Kinnear) listens as obsessed screenwriter Charlie (Dennis Quaid) pitches a script to him- a tasteless opus that Griffin quickly dismisses. Undeterred, Charlie holds Griffin at gunpoint and tries to force him to sell the script. The following shenanigans are the contents of this screenplay.

The first segment, “The Catch,” is actually pretty funny as Kate Winslet tries to figure out why no one seems to notice the giant ballsack hanging from her date Hugh Jackman’s neck. Don’t judge me, I laughed. The second one was pretty funny in an ‘ashamed of yourself but laughing’ way, it actually plays on the stereotypes about homeschoolers, as a homeschooled young person I appreciated that.

The only other really funny short in this collection is the grossly inappropriate iBabe. The others range from pretty mediocre to pretty bad. The one with Chloe Grace Moretz, a talented young actress, is just embarrassing and awkward as a teenage girl is humiliated by her inopportunely timed first period and the incompetence of her male audience. The one with Anna Faris was gross and pointless, and is only funny if you like poop jokes and third rate sitcom humor.

Some of the shorts were mesmerizing in their strange tastelessness, “Beezel,” with it’s homosexual cat jacking off to pictures of his owner in swimtrunks, is a startling example. I didn’t find the short about the black basketball players particularly racist, but I didn’t find it funny either.

“Movie 43” doesn’t really utilize it’s all-star cast, but you could do worse for a late-rainy-day distraction. If you get to watch it free, and want to laugh a few times and think ‘hmm, that’s strange,’ then go for it. It’s not the abomination people have made it out to be, but it’s no classic comedy. Just remember to think for yourself!
                                

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)

“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is a willfully ridiculous, ridiculously bloody, balls-out and slightly touching film that allows the hillbillies to be the heroes for a change.

Tucker and Dale, far from the chainsaw-wielding, pig-raping rednecks we have come to expect from horror movies and West Virginia jokes, are just trying to have a nice time at their vacation home when out of the blue come a group of college kids who also want to have a nice time… but quickly become an incompetent lynch-mob over a series of misunderstandings.

The progression of the plot is super simple — somehow, under various circumstances, these doltheads keep killing themselves all around Tucker and Dale’s vacation home. Meanwhile, lovelorn Dale (Tyler Labine) harbors a crush on one of the college girls (Katrina Bowden,) while Tucker (Firefly’s Alan Tudyk) encourages him to believe in himself.

What really matters here are the jokes, delivered steadily and evoking a lot of laughs. The dialogue is one of the funniest in recent indie horror-comedies. The kills are brilliant in their own way, straining credulity to the extreme while still remaining hilarious and entertaining.

I don’t know how they did it, but I actually found the romance between bearish, backwoods boy Dale and slim, blonde college student Alison (Bowden) to be believable in the context of the movie. Anyway, it’s no less plausible than the college students somehow killing themselves, whether by fire, woodchipper (shades of “Fargo”) or tree branch (WTF?!)

“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” has a big, warm, squishy heart at the middle of it, for all its guts and gore. It also provides a valuable message about not making snap judgments about people, without making the audience slog through the after-school special shit.

Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine give hilarious performances as the two harmless hillbillies at the center of the story, while Katrina Bowden is fittingly likable as the college girl that Dale falls head over heels for. The ending gets a little overly silly, but the movie will have won your heart long beforehand. “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is a awesome entry into the horror/comedy genre.

Django Unchained (2012)

“Django Unchained” is a blood-soaked, blackly funny, slavery-era extravaganza of a film, compliments of Quentin Tarantino. It is a movie populated with great actors delivering great dialogue, with some great gore and not one but two epic shoot-outs at the end to top it off.

Django (Jamie Fox) is a slave who was separated from his wife, Broomhilda Von Shaft (Kerry Washington) as punishment when the two tried to run away together from their plantation. Forced to walk shackled to a horse, under harsh winter conditions, Django is surprised to encounter eccentric “dentist” Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who turns out to be a skilled bounty hunter.

King Schultz acquires Django under strange and bloody circumstances, and offers him a proposition: Django will earn his freedom if he helps King to identify three slavers who are wanted dead or alive. Thus begins a blood, unusual adventure as the two seek out outlaws and ultimately attempt to save Django’s wife from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a sadistic and insane slaveowner.

Christoph Waltz, who proved his acting chops playing opportunistic SS officer Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds,” shines here as charismatic and mysterious King Schultz, who seems to have his own strange code of ethics.

Jamie Foxx is good and Kerry Washington excels playing a fairly uninteresting character, but the biggest surprise is DiCaprio. Nothing of 90’s heartthrob Leo is present as slimy, venomously evil Candie, like “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” It’s a total transformation.

Some people might be disgusted by the sixth character: Stephen, a manipulative and subservient slave (Samuel L. Jackson), but I thought it was brave of Tarantino to introduce a black villain into a slavery-era film and show the shades of gray in race relations of that time.

There were certain parts of the movie I felt were a little excessive, for instance the KKK scene, which I felt dragged a little. The blood, too, could be a little excessive, but Tarantino without blood? Where would we be? Simply put, this will be a delight for fans of Quentin Tarantino, but people looking for a gentler, kinder, more sensitive movie will best look elsewhere.

Tarantino delivers as he always does: clever dialogue, creative shots, and gallons of blood. On a side note, although no movie could accurately portray the horrors of slavery, this film gets pretty far out of people’s comfort zone, which is more responsible for the controversy than any alleged racism. If you like Tarantino, you will like this strong entry into his cinematic universe.

Four Rooms (1995)

For reasons I cannot fully explain, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and laughed throughout. Blame it on my crazy sense of humor. Blame it on my love of gratuitous film violence and insanity. But mostly, blame it on Tim Roth. Roth’s manic, inspired portrayal of swishy, spasticated, neurotic bellhop “Ted” resulted in one of the most entertaining characters I’ve seen in a while.

Here’s the deal- “Four Rooms” is a pseudo-anthology film featuring four segments written and directed by four filmmakers. Each segment follows Ted (Roth) through one insane New Year spent at a hotel and punctuated by violence, weird sexuality, and mutilation. Three of the segments are directed by filmmakers I’m not really familiar with, and the fourth is done by Tarantino.

I liked all of the stories in the film, but in different ways. I didn’t really know what to make of the first one. A coven of witches staying at the hotel, played by prominent ’90s icons such as Madonna and Lili Taylor, discover they need sperm to complete their witchy potion to bring the goddess Diana to life. And who else for the job but twitchy hotel bellboy Roth?

The second story involves an insane husband and wife who want to Ted to participate in their kinky sex games. The third and the funniest, “The Misbehavers,” follows Ted as he is bribed into caring for Antonio Banderas’s two whiny children. The kids, who exemplify the reason I hate small children, soon push Ted over the edge with their demands. But how will Ted react when there’s a real emergency on hand?

I actually thought Tarantino’s short, “The Man From Hollywood,” was the weakest, because it seemed self-indulgent, suffering from uninterrupted periods of Tarantino reading his dialogue. In this one, Ted comes across a Hollywood bigwig (Tarantino) with a shocking proposition.

I watched this movie free of the knowledge that it had been critically panned, with an abysmal 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think you have to have a certain kind of sense of humor to appreciate this kind of movie. For me, it was very funny, because it wasn’t the usual wishy-washy cliche type of comedy.

I derived the majority of the humor from Tim Roth’s absurdly physical performance. It reminded me a little of Charlie Chaplin for the ’90s, which was, obviously, a less innocent time for cinema than the Tramp’s heyday. Overall, “Four Rooms” is an interesting and overlooked black comedy for those who like their comedy absurd and bizarre.

God Bless America (2011)

Despite a fairly small viewership, Bobcat Godtwait’s pitch-black comedy “God Bless America” has proved to be somewhat controversial since it’s release, which was no doubt what Goldtwait intended. Rumors abound about it’s ‘glorification of violence,’ ‘tasteless content,’ and so-called ‘Liberal agenda.’ So here I am to weigh in my two cents.

First of all, the allegation that the film is political propaganda is pure bollocks. Despite the mockery of extreme right-wingers and ‘Obama-as-Hitler’ ridiculousness, “God Bless America” proves to be, like it’s protagonist Frank, largely politically neutral.

By the beginning of the film, Frank (Joel Murray) is enraged and psychotically angry. Drinking and fantasizing about killing the inconsiderately loud next-door couple and their baby does little to quench his increasing blood lust.

To most people, Frank seems like a quiet, mild-mannered middle-aged man. But in his head Frank lives a much more violently intriguing life, as most of us do. Divorced, father to a bratty little child who cannot be bothered to spend time with him, Frank is fed up with what he perceived as the downfall of American society.

But it is not until he is diagnosed a inoperable brain tumor and loses his job that he finally snaps, cashing in his military service and targeting the b**chy star of a reality TV show, Chloe (Maddie Hasson) of “Chloe’s Sweet Sixteen.”

Joel Murray is outstanding as Frank, but Tara Lynn Barr is less impressive as Roxy, the sixteen-year-old girl who accompanies Frank on his killing spree. Roxy has feelings for Frank that are not reciprocated, and the platonic relationship between the two is one of the main points of the film. That and a whole lot of anger.

“God Bless America” has lots of satisfyingly bloodthirsty violence, a great soundtrack, and equally bloodthirsty satire as Frank and Roxy dissect modern American society. The fact that we sympathize and are to some extent compliant in the killings does not keep me from loving this movie, and is instead and interesting manipulation of audience loyalties.

Joel Murray proves he is every bit as good if not better than his brother Bill, and his rage and disgust is palpable. Roxy is a slightly annoying and overly sadistic sidekick, but some of her lines are funny and her presence is crucial to the plot.

So is Frank right? Have we become an ugly and cruel society? I would argue that the ugliness is intrinsic to human nature period, American or not. I think other countries have slightly higher standards when it comes to film and television programming, but I also think that the need to shock and degrade is in our genetic material, whether we live in the US or France or Timbuktu.

Nevertheless, I recommend this movie to people who enjoy the darker side of humanity presented in film. My dad argues that to like a movie like this, you must HAVE a dark side, which doesn’t say much to the fans of this movie. But one could also argue that some extent, your reaction to this kind of comedy shows what kind of person you are. For better for worse, I am a fan. That is all.

Step Brothers (2008)

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Okay. If you are planning to rent this film because you like Will Ferrell, or because you laughed (as I did) at his intellectual masterpiece Land of the Lost… stop and think for a minute, a practice this film ignored completely. Emotionally underdeveloped males are not funny.

Vindictive man-child squabbling is not funny. Middle aged men too lazy and pathetic to get off of their behinds and get jobs, only feed off of their long-suffering parents with the will and determination of parasites… not funny. Even if one of them is played by Will Ferrell, the humor is still pretty nonexistent.

Step Brothers, an uneasy blend of Paul Blart – Mall Cop and Chuck & Buck, is the kind of throwaway film people might awkwardly refer to as “cute” (as in “was it a good movie? it was… cute.”) The trouble is, it is far too resolute in it’s crudity to pass as such.

It mistakes winces for laughs and hammers its content ferociously into the viewer’s face, hoping that its gall will earn some kind of respect. It’s not even or satirical enough to pass as dark humor. As a feel-good raunchy comedy, it misses its mark completely, despite some ‘ah gee’ moments near the end where relationships are salvaged and the imbeciles are rewarded for their actions.

The premise runs like this – two older people Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) meet at a science convention, bond, and are in each other’s pants within the next five minutes. They put their clothes on, straighten up and get married. Nancy and Robert would like nothing more than to take Robert’s boat and embark on an indefinite vacation.

The trouble arises with their two sons, Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Reilly), middle-aged slackers who live at home and don’t take well to the courtship.The two of them spend the film masturbating, eating junk food,  being beaten by children, beating children, and flaunting foul language like a college degree. Their idiocy is almost redeemed by the introduction of Brennan’s successful brother, Derek, who is more deplorable than they are. But it’s tough competition.

One both rubs his testicles on a drum set and is forced to lick a mound of dog feces, all in the same film. If you are interested in seeing Will Ferrell’s balls, maybe you should rent and enjoy this movie. If not…. maybe not. They should probably be marked as Will Ferrell = Brennan and John C. Reilly = Dale, since there is no personal variation between them. They exist as characters to disgust and half-heartedly amuse.

Although Richard Jenkins, playing in my recent reviewed film Burn After Reading and receiving an Oscar nomination for The Visitor (bought but not seen) has participated in many of the Farrelly’s films, I had no idea he could sink this low. He’s the only character with a working brain in the film (as his wife smiles and says “I think they’re bonding,” he responds, “I don’t like this.”)

However, for this character to work, one would need a director with a apparently functional brain. At an afterwords at the credits, when Brennan and Dale face their grade school-sized bullies, one punches a child repeatedly, his head bobbing back and forth like a rag doll. That’s the whole trouble with Step Brothers – it has no understanding of what’s funny and what isn’t. Equipped with this bumbling ignorance, it shamelessly hits all the wrong notes

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

“An American Werewolf in London” is a overlooked classic of horror that provides laughs and scares and remains fresh upon repeat viewings. Sporting amazing make-up effects by Rick Baker, it also contains a werewolf transformation scene which has to this day not been topped.

Goofball American youths Jack and David (Griffin Dunne & David Naughton) are backpacking in England when they are attacked by a werewolf, leaving Jack dead and David barely injured, but infected with lycanthropy that takes hold of him every full moon.

After a stay in a hospital whilst having his wounds treated, David is taken to the flat of a pretty nurse (Jenny Agutter) who has taken a shine to him (if this is starting to sound a little like a “Playboy” pubescent fantasy, read on.)

In between getting hot ‘n heavy with his new girlfriend, David is visited by his dead friend Jack (!) who’s still a live wire even while returning from the grave in a state of decomposition. Jack, always the optimist, arrives to warn David of his impending doom.

Meanwhile, David suspects he is going crazy and hospital doc Dr. Hirsch (John Woodvine) looks into the circumstances that surround the attack. The dialogue in this is great, and fairly crackles with life and wit.

The use of the werewolf myth is well-conceived and the movie never takes itself too seriously, which is an asset in a movie that involves zombies in porn theaters and curvy nurses.

With all these strengths, isn’t it a shame that they didn’t pick a better actor to play the lead. Naughton, who was discovered by director John Landis doing a Coke commercial, doesn’t exactly impress playing David, the titular werewolf of the title.

It’s hard to buy his performance, which awkwardly melds grief, guilt, and frustration. Meanwhile, Griffin Dunne (Jack) and Jenny Agutter (Nurse Price) provide strong support. Nurse’s development is questionable, though, as is her decision to pair herself up with a confused and seemingly insane man.

However, “An American Werewolf…” is strong and funny comedy-horror. The soundtrack, which employs only moon-themed songs, is an asset, as is the script, originally written by John Landis when he was only nineteen years old. Does my screenwriting movie-loving nerdy little heart proud. Watch it.

Dead Alive (Brain-Dead) (1992)

Be forewarned, this is grade-B all the way, so if you are a no-fun fuddy-duddy like my mom or need an Oscar pedigree for every film, you watch, you will probably find this equal parts tedious and repellent. However, for those with a subversive wit and tolerance for bad taste and a ridiculous amount of blood and gore, look no further. This is your movie.

Lionel (Timothy Balme) is just your ordinary Bates-ish momma’s boy who is astonished when cute Hispanic shopkeeper Paquita (Diana Peñalver) takes an interest in him. Now this is the 1950’s, so whites and minorities were not the best of friends, but Lionel is about to face a lot more than close-mindedness when his domineering mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody) gets herself bitten by a mysterious Sumatran rat-monkey and becomes a flesh-eating zombie.

Instead of killing his mother like most people would do, Lionel lets her fester, much to the misfortune of everyone around him. Meanwhile, sleazy Uncle Les (Ian Watkin) prowls around, trying to steal Lionel’s inheritance, and the body count rises.

This is early Peter Jackson, before he became a Hollywood bigwig and brought to life the Hobbits of the shire. Now I’d like to say that “Lord of the Rings” means a lot to me, and that I am a LOTR nerd who owns a life-size replica of Saramaun’s staff and can speak elvish. Okay, maybe not. But I’ll be damned if I don’t prefer “Dead Alive,” with all its bile and guts and mounds of intestines and rotten flesh.

I’ll be damned if Frodo and Sam’s touching friendship doesn’t make me fall asleep. Maybe it was all my Dad’s “Lord of the Rings” marathons (featuring the four-hour extended editions), but I think I’m just about Shired out. And now that I’ve turned in my movie fan card and revealed myself as the charlatan and the fraud that I am, I concur.

The acting is… meh. Nobody’s going to winning any academy awards, but the actors seem to be having a good time and so are we. There are many memorable scenes (the kung-fu priest being a particular favorite) and there are some creative shots. Gorehounds will find more than enough gore n’ guts to satisfy their bloodlust.

“Dead Alive” is the ORIGINAL Rom-Zom-Com, before “Shaun of the Dead,” before “Zombieland,” before “Warm Bodies,” and before the many additions of the genre to come. In 1992 it was considered by many to be the goriest film of all time, and I wonder what progressions have been made, especially in the Japanese horror genre.

People who enjoy “bad” movies that are actually good movies with a subversive sense of humor will find a lot to like in “Dead Alive,” and if you don’t like it, shame on you. Go watch “Citizen Kane” or “Gone With the Wind,” and stay off my blog, which is way too cool for you. Fin.

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