Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Four Rooms is … an interesting experience.

Four Rooms is not for everyone.    Made up of four segments directed by four different directors, there’s no major story other than following a bellboy, Ted, as he works his first night at a rundown hotel.   Each segment has a different flavor, a different style but it also makes an uneven viewing experience.

The Missing Ingredient is the first and the weakest of the segments.   A coven of witches camps in the honeymoon suite and they are desperate to resurrect their goddess.   One of them has forgotten a much-needed ingredient that she can get from Ted.   You’d think a piece about a coven of witches would be interesting but The Missing Ingredient can’t even be awful, just boring.   It has a bit of inspired stunt casting in Madonna, but she’s not any good here either.

The Wrong Man centers on a man and a woman in one of the rooms who may be either playing at some sort of sexual role-playing game or…not, and Ted’s not really sure which is which and what is what.   All he can tell is that the man’s got a gun and is pointing it at him.   Most of this one relies on Tim Roth and Jennifer Beals using some precision timing and while it has a few laughs, the short wears out its welcome quickly.

Robert Rodriguez’s The Misbehavers is easily the best of all of them.   A husband and wife pay Ted $500 to watch their children while they’re gone for the night.  The kids turn out to be pint-sized, foul-mouthed tyrants who give Ted no end of grief.   By the time their parents return, they have managed to set the room on fire, discover a dead hooker in the bed, stab Ted with a syringe, smoke, drink and generally destroy all manner of property and drive Ted nearly to the brink of insanity.   It’s as though Rodriguez melded his Spy Kids sensibilities with the same sick humor in Planet Terror … just before all that.

The Man From Hollywood is directed by Tarantino and it’s got an awful lot of Tarantino trademarks in it.   What sinks The Man From Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino casting himself.   His character is Jimmie Dimmick from Pulp Fiction dialed up to eleven.   Tarantino’s fine in small doses (a la Desperado) but here it’s insufferable, obnoxious and asks way too much of the viewer to be patient as Tarantino manically bumbles along.   The Man From Hollywood is about a bet that really doesn’t end well and it feels longer than it actually is.

So what’s the guilty pleasure in Four Rooms?  Tim Roth, hands down.   Roth combines silly, well-timed comedy with slapstick and comes out with a neurotic bellboy who’s over the top but still believable.  This is a guy poorly equipped to handle the night at this hotel and reacts badly to most of the insane situations in which he ends up.

Roth is the connection between the four pieces, and even when Four Rooms is bad you hope you can still keep watching for Tim Roth and what he might do next.   I suspect The Missing Ingredient was placed first solely because it’s just not that good, and Roth’s performance is the one good thing about it.   Four Rooms would have been atrocious without him, primarily because it runs as a movie without any real sense of direction.  In fact, Four Rooms feels like four people got together on a lark to have some fun, not present stories and characters they had any investment in, so Roth has to bear a heavy weight in making things work.   He does, as best he can, and he’s the best part of it all.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Real Genius begins with Mitch Taylor, a high school whiz kid interested in lasers, being recruited to the prestigious Pacific Tech by a Professor Holloway.  Holloway is secretly interested in using Taylor to develop a laser that the CIA can use to incinerate people from space.   Weak, right?   (This was the stuff of Reagan’s nightmares, right?)   Taylor’s thrilled just to be at Pacific Tech, but he hits the books hard much to the displeasure of his roommate Chris (played by Val Kilmer).    Chris plays Obi-Wan to Mitch’s Luke, teaching him that life isn’t all about solving problems, while Holloway puts the heat on the two to finish the laser.

When they finally figure out what Holloway has planned for their little experiment, the two recruit other students to help them sink the laser before it can do any real damage.

William Atherton plays the slimy professor keeping the students in the dark.   He also played Richard Peck, the jackass EPA agent in Ghostbusters and the jerk reporter willing to sell out anyone for a scoop in Die Hard.   Thus, Atherton seems to have a propensity for playing assholes we love to hate.  (I bet he gets stopped a lot with comments from people:  “You’re the asshole from Ghostbusters!”   “You’re the asshole from Die Hard!”  I wonder if people ever bring this one up.)  He doesn’t disappoint with Real Genius, as he plays the smarmy professor playing all the angles just right.

Kilmer’s funny enough as Chris Knight, and while the movie isn’t great, it has a sort of “real life meets a touch of wishful thinking” kind of sweetness ordinarily found in John Hughes movies.   … Or I could’ve just been mistaken by looking at all the ’80’s-tastic fashion.  Some of the characters are a bit one-dimensional, but Real Genius makes the whole experience fun.    The ending in particular is worth the price of admission.   Unrealistic?   Slightly zany?   It’s hilarious and the kind of thing that can only happen in the movies – and I mean that in the very best way.

Read Full Post »

So much to like and so much to … not.

Diablo Cody was damned if she did well and damned if she didn’t.   After the success of Juno, an Oscar and all the hipster cred a girl could ever want, Cody seemed to be either much hated or much loved by film geeks.    Any follow-up she crafted would have been heavily scrutinized, no matter what it was.   It’s a shame that Jennifer’s Body has gotten heavy flak given the fact it bombed at the box office in spectacular fashion, because it’s not terrible.   It’s also a shame that Jennifer’s Body isn’t great either.

Needy Lisnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is a geeky high schooler who has a normal life, complete with average guy boyfriend Chip.    Needy’s best friend, Jennifer Check, is the most popular girl in school.   Their unlikely friendship is the result of growing up as best friends and sticking together all their lives, to the point where they can sense things about one another.   “Sandbox love never dies,” says Needy.   They live in the town of Devil’s Kettle, a place where nothing exciting happens, and everyone and everything has horrible, sour-sounding names.  (Needy?   Really.)

One night, Jennifer wheedles and pleads with Needy to see an indie band called Low Shoulder at some dive bar.   Fronted by the scheming Nikolai (played by a fantastic Adam Brody), the band longs for mainstream success.  Due to some well-intentioned lies, the band believes Jennifer to be a virgin.   When a horrific accident befalls the bar, the band lures Jennifer to their van and sacrifices her in the woods to Satan.   The problem is Jennifer’s not a virgin and she comes back all wrong.   In fact, she comes back needing to eat people for sustenance.   Needy has to confront the demonic aspects of her best friend and the fact that Jennifer’s “evil, not just high school evil”.

Obviously, Jennifer’s Body is about female high-school relationships and how toxic and sick they can be at times.    I’ve read Cody proclaiming this is a feminist movie; I don’t think that, but it is refreshing to have two female leads and a female-centered horror story.

The style and tone of the film is remarkably similar to Heathers in a way.  Needy provides a running voice-over, much like Veronica.   Jennifer, even before she becomes a succubus from Hell is Heather McNamara.  Post-demonic transference, she’s Heather McNamara channeling the spirit of J.D.   Jennifer’s Body has the same winky black humor as Heathers.   Hell, Cody liberally seasoned the movie with so much of her whippy slang it’s hard not to compare it to Heathers, especially when it appears Cody’s angling to get in an iconic quote much like the infamous “I love my dead, gay son” moment.   With all of the parody of grief and the platitudes people spout and all of the above references, Jennifer’s Body becomes less like a homage or tipping its hat to Heathers and more like someone used it as Cliff’s Notes.

Megan Fox surprisingly is good, given that she demonstrates some measure of self-awareness and actually sells the scene in which Low Shoulder sacrifices her in the woods.    Adam Brody steals the show as an asshole wanna-be rockstar.   Cody’s got recurring characters from Juno popping up too, like J.K. Simmons as a high school teacher with a hook that prove to be fairly funny.

For the most part, Jennifer’s Body is fun; it’s not horrific, it’s not gory, but it is mostly fun with a dash of teenage self-exploration.   More than a few of Cody’s lines and signature teen-speak fall so flat it’s awkward, but most of them zing like they’re supposed to.   I still haven’t decided how I feel about the ending, which is what you would expect and not what you’d expect all at the same time.   I have problems with some of the choices the director, Karyn Kusama, made, but for the most part, I think Kusama did a fairly good job.

(Note to whoever insisted on the lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried:  totally unnecessary and slightly exploitative, dudes.)

I’d recommend it is a Netflix rental, that’s for sure.   There’s a couple of commentaries on the DVD but I haven’t had a chance to watch them yet.   (As a side note, I watched the extended version, however different that is from the theatrical version.)

Read Full Post »

Based on a true story, y’all.

Star runner Derrice Bannock is a hero in Jamaica, but his hopes of running in the Olympics are dashed when he and a fellow runner who goes by the name of Yul Brenner no less are tripped by another competitor named Junior on accident.    Derrice refuses to give up his Olympic dream.   He recalls that a bobsled coach attempted to court his father, who was also a Jamaican runner, into starting the first Jamaican bobsled team.  With help from his friend Sanka, Yul and Junior join up and they manage to go all the way to the Olympics.  But can four guys from Jamaica actually compete in winter sports?

Oh, the drama!  The suspense!   The tension!

Not really.   This is a feel-good Disney flick, so it’s chock full of cliches and great life lessons:  never give up, always finish, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (to quote the real Yul Brynner).    Somehow the film avoids preaching, which is great and the cast makes it actually a real joy to watch, cliches and all.

Cool Runnings is frivolous fun, one of those movies I watched when I was a kid to pass the time that as an adult I find amusing without being tiring.  It’s a sweet film mainly carried through the interactions of the four bobsledders and I imagine partly on my childhood nostalgia to be frank.

What I did not expect was to turn off the movie and feel an odd wistfulness for John Candy, who died quite a while ago and who I realize I miss greatly in films.   Candy was a big part of my childhood in the sense that I watched more than a few of his movies, but his salty, cranky sled coach in this movie is a gem.   It’s sad that Candy’s no longer around; he was skillfully funny, I now realize, in a way a lot of comedic actors never are.   He could also cut it as a “real actor”.

The movie’s a fun piece of feel-good cinema, if you’re into that sort of thing and if you’re not, then you won’t like it in the slightest, I don’t think.

Read Full Post »

I waited for a while on this one.

DownwithLoveDown With Love is like a bad date that goes horribly wrong three quarters of the way through.   A good time is had until a terrible faux pas is made, or someone gets food poisoning or your date turns out to be a recently released convict or something that totally derails the good time you’re having.

I desperately wanted to like Down With Love.   Ewan McGregor is a damn joy to watch in almost everything he does, and God bless us everyone that the good Lord saw fit to create McGregor in the first place.   Handsome he is, but save this movie he cannot.   Even Renee Zellweger, who normally relies on an obnoxious squint and something passing for sass to sail her way through movies, really tries here.   She’s very likeable and very sweet in a way I had never realized was possible for her.

It’s a shame that the actual story sinks the movie.

I get the guilty pleasure aspect of this one.  The supporting cast is equally as fun to watch as McGregor and Zellweger, David Hyde Pierce in particular.   The costumes and set design are brilliant and beautifully, tongue-in-cheek retro and it looks like everyone had a good time.

Zellweger’s Barbara Novak is an author who comes to Manhattan to promote her book, Down With Love.  It’s a book that advocates career promotion and happiness with self before falling in love with a man.  She and her editor concoct a scheme to promote her book by setting up an interview with Catcher Block, a playboy writer for a fashionable men’s magazine.   After Block repeatedly blows her off, Novak goes another route and becomes internationally famous, leading Catcher Block to have no dates and surrounded by women more interested in chocolate bars and their careers than him.   He swears vengeance on Novak by pretending to be someone else and romancing her in order to expose that Miss “Down With Love” is really all about love with some unintended consequences.

I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Pillow Talk, the movie that heavily influenced this one, but I’m fairly sure it was done with a little more finesse than this.  Certainly it had to rise above a late twist that’s absurd and unbelievable, breathlessly monologued by Renee Zellweger.    I can’t find much fault with Zellweger and McGregor at all, as they’re both effortlessly charming and the whole ’60’s sex comedy thing is sent up to great hilarious effect at times (although I have never confessed to be a connoisseur of ’60’s sex comedies, you know).    The whole thing feels weak, and it feels like a sham.

It feels like the investment you put into the movie is threefold what you get out of it and no amount of charm can squeeze Down With Love wholly into one’s heart, even if that’s where the movie desperately wants to go.   Instead, the faulty plot and contrivances, even if they’re send ups, send it straight to the discount DVD bin.

A disappointing waste of McGregor, Pierce and Zellweger is what this movie is.

Read Full Post »

It’s like Big!   But GIRLY!

13 Going on 30

13 Going on 30 isn’t a favorite of mine, but I can easily see how it could be a guilty pleasure.    It’s a fluffy morality tale about getting everything you thought you wanted and realizing it wasn’t worth it.

13 year old Jenna Rink is desperate to fit in with the cool girls at school.   Her friend Matty is kind and good to her, but Jenna spurns him and a gift he spent ages making her in favor of impressing the cool girls.   After an accident with some “wishing dust”, Jenna wakes up to discover she’s thirty years old and a successful magazine editor at her favorite teenage girl magazine, Poise.

What follows is a serious of slapstick and eighties jokes, since Jenna still acts as if she’s thirteen and is thrilled that she can drink pina coladas legally.   She helps liven up the failing magazine while learning that before her thirteen year old self was magically transplanted into the future, grown up Jenna Rink was really a very nasty person. 

Her best friend (the lovely and wonderful Judy Greer) is cynical, sharp tongued and mean to the hilt.   Jenna wonders what happened to Matty, so she tracks him down and discovers he’s engaged and they’re no longer friends.

13 Going On 30 rests on Jennifer Garner’s wide-eyed charm, which gets her through most of the movie.    The whole shebang gets trying toward the end because sitting through an hour plus of learning about how vile Adult Jenna was and how equally vile the best friend is gets tiring and depressing.   

I never got the Mark Ruffalo love until I saw this movie because he plays a brokenhearted guy who’s willing to still be friends with Jenna, even if she kicked him around something major.   

More than anything, 13 Going on 30 is a lesson wrapped up in the trappings of adult people doing the Thriller dance at parties and quoting Pat Benatar.   It’s more than a little cheesy given that it’s lecturing a bit on the values of family and friends over material things and status.   Of course Jenna gets to go back through the magic of wishing dust to her thirteen year old self and correct  her future self’s mistakes.    It slightly irritates me that of all the realizations that Jenna comes to – that her nice apartment and job are not worth the backbiting and bitchery she’s engaged in, that her adult self ignoring her parents is horrific to her – that it is a dude that makes her wish she could take it all back.

Garner, Ruffalo and Greer are really the best parts of the movie, but it’s also a treat to watch for the multiple ’80’s references (although you can fast forward through a creepy scene where Garner has a sleepover with “other” 13 year olds).  

It’s a little too fluffy and sugary for my taste; I appreciate fully the fact that someone could find this a guilty pleasure, but I’d rather watch Johnny Mnemonic.   (Could that be coming up next?!)

Read Full Post »

Ah, George Hamilton, King of the Carrot Colored People.  (I hear Lindsay Lohan’s a countess.)

love_at_first_bite

Count Dracula (George Hamilton) has been evicted from his castle by a Communist committee bent on turning it into a training facility for Romanian athletes.   Dracula relocates to New York, which is no coincidence.   He’s finally fallen in love after 700 years with a woman that he’s only seen on the covers of fashion magazines.   With a loyal bug-eating manservant named Renfield in tow, he heads to the Big Apple to find the woman of his dreams.

He finds her, sure enough.   It turns out that she’s a supermodel named Cindy who has some extra baggage attached in a fiance who – naturally – is a descendent of Van Helsing.    

The movie really feels like a Mel Brooks production sans the slapstick, so I guess you could call it Mel Brooks-lite.    A lot of the jokes fall flat, but some are actually pretty funny.   And while George Hamilton portrays Dracula as a lovelorn guy vastly outof step with the times, it’s really Peter Benjamin as Jeffrey, the fiance who’s also a therapist, who steals the show.   The guy has fantastic line delivery and really works a part that could have been fairly lackluster into something quite funny.  Jeffrey constantly tries to both win back over the girl he loves and honor his family heritage by slaying Dracula with predictable but comic results – he gets locked up in the nuthouse and arrested.  (He spends his time in the psychiatric ward drawing pictures of Dracula in crayon with the title ‘Dracula SUCKS!’)

It shouldn’t be any surprise that Count Dracula overcomes the obstacles, gets the girl and flies off into the night, but he has a few humorous pitfalls before he does.  If you watch it, I’d have a healthy sense of no expectations beforehand so that the few bright spots really stand out.  It’s also fun with regard to the fact that there’s a large amount of name brand recognition – TWA, Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc. – so there’s a lot of, “Hey, remember when that looked like tht?”   Case in point:  Remember those old animated Raid commercials?   There’s one of those in this movie.

I’m not sure what makes this a guilty pleasure, but it was at least an enjoyable watch.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »