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Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

#1549: The Hangover

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Doug (Justin Bartha) is traveling to Las Vegas with his friends Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) as well as his soon to be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis).    Stu’s stuck with a harridan for a girlfriend, Phil’s excited to get away from his wife and kid and Alan … well, Alan’s just got a few screws loose.  They arrive at Sin City in Doug’s future father-in-law’s vintage Mercedes, do a couple of shots of Jagermeister on the roof and a few hours later, the gang minus Doug wakes up in their swank hotel room.    There’s a baby in the linen closet, a tiger in the bathroom, Stu the dentist is missing a tooth, and no one has any idea where Doug is.

Thus begins The Hangover.

I think I must be the only person in America who doesn’t find Zach Galifianakis all that funny in this movie.  His portrayal of Alan is one of a brain damaged, socially inept whacko who reads awkward speeches about wolf packs and has a Rain Man moment in a casino.   While his performance is worth a few chuckles, he’s mostly way out there and a source of strange tension.

The real comedy of The Hangover is in the strange, absurd moments like the tiger in the bathroom or a naked man popping out of the trunk of a car and beating everyone in the vicinity with a tire iron.   The constant apparitions of the unknown and bizarre keep the film lively, interesting and funny.   These events are paced so well, the film doesn’t even peak early with a hilarious cameo from Mike Tyson a third into the movie.

The friends’ desperate search to find Doug in time for his wedding back in LA is comical but the payoff to the search isn’t as good as one hopes it will be.   In fact, almost all the characters in The Hangover smack of buddy-comedy / road trip clichés; it’s really the variety of the absurd that makes the movie worth watching.

Worth the $9.50 a piece Younger Sister and I spent to see it, but nothing life-changing.

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There’s so much to tackle in a film like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, so let’s just … start with the name.

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Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is exactly what the name implies plus more.   Jesus Christ returns to earth in Canada to protect lesbians from evil vampires hellbent on nomming on their blood.   If you think that’s crazy, well, that’s about one one-thousandth of all the insanity the movie has in store.

Jesus comes back and right off the bat, he’s fighting evil vampiric chicks.  But after he’s done there, he’s got time to get a haircut, get a piercing, squeeze in a song-and-dance number while simultaneously healing the sick and lame and come out looking like a member of Bad Religion.

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Say what you will, but that Jesus fellow is no slacker.

Jesus slowly amasses a group of followers, including devoted ass-kicking apostle Mary Magnum, to take on the Canadian vampire coven…thing.   Pretty soon it’s an all out battle to save the souls of the innocent with both sides locked in battle.   (And Jesus manages to kick the asses of twenty-odd atheists who show up to tell him to not-so-politely get the hell out of Dodge.)   Of course, it only makes sense that El Santos, the god of Mexican wrestling, would show up to lend a helping hand.  Right?

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Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is absurd fun.   Throwing back to the style of ’70’s kung-fu and exploitation, it’s great fun without being sleazy.   While some of the cinematic aspirations of the filmmakers fall short as there’s only so much you can do with a budget that would roughly pay for a ticket to Star Trek, the heart of the film is big.    Make no mistake, it’s definitely got moments where it’s clearly done on the cheap or by amateurs, but let’s face it:  professional stunt-people would’ve killed the allure of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.  Low-budget entertainment at its finest, this is the movie that those trailers for Grindhouse aspired to be and more.  I can’t say this movie is for everyone, but it will amuse and entertain a lot of folks.   (Troma never made low-budget flicks quite so fun.)

You can find it readily on Netflix and I’d say it’s worth the rental just for watching Jesus do a kicky song and dance number.   Don’t come for the plot or the action scenes or the brief moments of vampiric gore; come for the fun of watching a slice of inspired cinematic homage-cheese.

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Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a guy who is lacking in the social skills department.  He lives in a small town where his place of residence is the guesthouse of his family’s property.   His brother Gus and sister-in-law Karen live in the main house.   He works a boring job and goes to church, but his painful shyness problem and complete lack of socialization cause Karen to worry about him.

Gus and Karen are thrilled when one day Lars reports to the house, unbidden, to announce he has a new friend coming to stay.   Her name is Bianca and she’s a Brazilian/Dutch girl raised by nuns who Lars really likes.  He met her on the internet!

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Bianca is actually a Real Doll – one of those creepy, uber-realistic sex dolls you can buy on the internet – but Lars speaks to her as if she were a real person.   He insists on eating meals with her, taking her to church and generally treating her as if she’s a walking, talking human being.

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Gus and Karen are horrified and upset.  They take Lars to the local psychologist/doctor who advises them to keep the charade up with Lars.   From there, they have to convince the locals to treat Bianca as a real person to keep Lars happy.

Lars and the Real Girl is a sweet and charming film for ninety percent of the film’s run time.   There’s a cute scene with Ryan Gosling giving a stuffed bear CPR, even.   It’s a solid, well-made movie.   I only have one problem with the film:   it feels a little folksy-ethereal in a way.

As Bianca is accepted by the community at large, Lars comes out of his cocoon and the weird family unit that Lars has comes to terms with why he’s suffering the delusion that Bianca is real.   It feels very ungrounded, however, primarily because everyone in the town is willing to go along with the charade of Bianca-as-a-real-person.  While there’s some roadblocks to this at first, they’re easily surmounted.   It feels a little unreal in a way, because Bianca begins to “volunteer” within the community and is accepted as a real girl.   It begs the viewer to accept that these folks are that good-hearted, but it doesn’t feel realistic that someone might not stand up and say, “Lars, buddy, that’s um…that’s a doll you’re talking to, man.”

Overall, though, it’s a nice, very solid film that’s a good one-time watch.   It manages a cute and sweet feeling without overdoing it and has some moments of genuinely good humor.    The actors to watch in this are definitely Emily Mortimer and Ryan Gosling, who are the best of the bunch.   Worth a Netflix, for sure.

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God, this thing wears thin fast.

Just My Luck involves Ashley (Lindsay Lohan), a fashionable Manhattan career girl who has everything go her way and Jake, a guy who does something involving music and who seems to be perenially cursed with awful luck.   When the two inadvertently cross paths at a masquerade party and kiss, they switch luck .  This leads Ashley to take up a desperate hunt for Jake as she gets fired, goes to prison, and  nearly electrocutes herself in the few short hours after they switch luck.

The concept of “luck-switching” is boring enough, but to stretch it out for hours is maddening.   I swear that the word “luck” has to be repeated enough time for it to be drilled into your brain with a Pavlovian response indicating pain.   Not only is it boring and tedious, but the general overall feel of the film doesn’t even feel romantic – and it’s supposed to be a romantic comedy, for goodness sakes.

Lindsay Lohan does not do her best here.   She’s mechanical and robotic at times, something which is odd considering the fact that she ought to be holding her own and then some.   Given the subject matter, this is Lohan’s previous bread-and-butter; a family-friendly comedy with a bit of romance and quirk.  In some regards, this is charted, simple territory for her. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Freaky Friday were similar roles in Lohan’s repertoire.   The performance she gave in Mean Girls indicates she’s far better than what she gives here, which is supposed to be a lucky but unappreciative career girl who learns the true meaning of being grateful for what you have.   Lohan, however, can’t even sell you that Ashley is appreciative for her luck, let alone capable of giving it all up for twoo-wuv.

Let’s hope Chris Pine isn’t as instantly forgettable in Star Trek as he is here.

There are some “what-if” premises that just can’t be stretched into a feature length movie without being exhausting and full of mediocrity and tedium for the viewer.   Just My Luck started out as one of those premises.

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My mother, by and large, hates the movies I review.   By hates, I mean, she tells me all the time that she just wishes that I would review something that didn’t involve massive explosions, decapitations and blood splatters.

Okay, fair enough.

So I made a deal with her that we’d do one movie a month that she got to pick where I would even sit down and watch it with her.   This month, Mom picked The Thin Man with Myrna Loy.

I have a fondness for mystery flicks in the first place.   The Thin Man is about wealthy socialite Nora Charles and her husband Nick.   Nick’s a famous private detective who’s retired to the easy life, helping Nora manage her family’s multitude of businesses.  When they return to New York City after a few years away, Nick finds himself the target of a young woman whose inventor father has disappeared and is now implicated in a series of murders.   She begs and pleads Nick to take the case, but to no avail.  Nick winds up intertwined in the case and has no alternative but to solve it.   The basic premise and plot development is pretty standard but The Thin Man’s witty back and forth sparring matches between Nick and Nora is what’s made it so memorable.

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Nick: (after sending Nora off to a tourist attraction without her approval)  How’d you like Grant’s tomb?

Nora: It’s lovely.   I’m having a copy made for you.

My mother watched this a lot as a child and claimed she wanted to live just like that when she grew up, only when she grew up she came to the sudden realization that Nick and Nora lived in the ’30’s.   My poor mother.

You can see the appeal of Nick and Nora as my mother pointed out – during the midst of the Great Depression, Nick and Nora were fabulous, glamorous and living the high life without a care in the world.   Snappy dialogue and characters soaked in booze, as my mother pointed out, let audiences live vicariously through the Charles’s while most folks were struggling to make ends meet.  Nora wore wonderful, expensive outfits and Nick is, well, to put it kindly – eccentric.   He spends his Christmas morning shooting balloons off the Christmas tree with a BB gun in their Manhattan hotel room.

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Speaking of being soaked in booze, one of the many things I find amusing about The Thin Man is how much the characters drink.   If Nick and Nora were representative of even one tenth of Manhattan island, I’m shocked that the fumes of gin and vermouth didn’t float across the pond and choke the residents in London or Paris.   There’s one point in the movie where Nora realizes Nick’s had six martinis already, so she instructs the waiter to bring her five martinis in addition to the one in her hand…. SO SHE CAN CATCH UP.  Hot damn.

It’s a miracle these people weren’t stumbling down the street drooling on themselves.   I take it back – in some parts of the film they really are stumbling and drooling, but that’s neither here nor there.  They’re charming cinematic drunks but my god – Nick and Nora must have consumed 85% of their daily categories in Manhattans and martinis.

My mother loves the costumes in The Thin Man.   I’m not a huge costume person yet I can see the appeal of this classy number.

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Note the drink in Nora’s hand.  Alcohol clearly solves everything.

I really like The Thin Man.  I don’t like it nearly as much as my mother does, but hey, that’s life.   I love the Nick and Nora dynamic, though, and it’s nice to see that it holds up many years later and eventually, it will be a welcome addition to the DVD collection.

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Uuunnngggh.

leonard_part_six_ver2How to describe Leonard Part 6? It’s a comedy depicting Bill Cosby as a retired spy who’s goaded back into the game after a vegetarian hell bent on freeing the world’s animals begins to plot to “free” the animals and begins killing people by training animals to kill.   That is the surface area to it, but it doesn’t begin to do it the severe atrocious justice it deserves.

Daniel Tosh once said that there’s no real way to describe a scary dream to your friend without making it sound completely stupid and that’s how I feel about Leonard Part 6.   Bill Cosby dresses up in some stupid outfits, followed behind by a loyal and predictable uptight butler, wherein Cosby gets to have a litany of stupid weapons (electric hair clippers!) and exotic footwear (ballet shoes!).    Frogs can band together to hop a 1970’s land yacht off a pier and into the ocean and fearsome vegetarian sect leaders can totally dress like Gloria Gaynor.

The whole point of the movie is to be ridiculous but Bill Cosby clearly didn’t learn that there’s a big line between fun-ridiculous and ARE YOU ON DRUGS, MAN?    The movie has a beginning, middle and end and some semblance of a story but the rest of the movie – you know, most of it – is just like the kind of dreams you get when you drink too much and pass out in your living room floor.

The farther I got, the more I wondered:   Who told good old Bill that this was a good idea?   What were the test screenings like?   Did anyone pause during the making of this and say, “Bill, you’re wearing ballet shoes, that woman looks like a human disco ball and this script makes no sense; what’s going on here?”

I have to say after the grind of what feels like a million awful movies, I’m running out of things to say about them.   I mean, you would think someone would take a step back and say, “Perhaps this is ill-advised” or “Maybe we should do better”.   Therefore, I’m running out of sympathy for movies like these – movies that make no sense and get worse with age.   But I’m nothing if not slightly positive and there’s a healthy way to use your copy of Leonard Part 6 effectively if you own it:

  • Batting practice;
  • Kindling;
  • Your kid’s science fair project in which Junior wants to see how long it takes a DVD to melt;
  • Skeet shooting/target practice;
  • Coaster;
  • Frisbee;
  • Stress therapy with a hammer and brute force;
  • Testing the strength of your kitchen disposal;
  • A gift to your annoying neighbor or coworker;
  • A cat toy, as long as you know, you tie some thread to it;
  • Using the disc as a prop in a demonstration on how not to handle a DVD.

So, you know, some good could come out of it, theoretically.

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There is not much to say about the horribly unfunny mish-mash of parody jokes that make up Meet The Spartans, except that if this is what my fellow average moviegoers consider fine comedic entertainment, then we are all doomed.   There is no hope left for humanity and we should all give up now, flailing in our own muck and mire of stupidity and crassness.

It is a painful, horrible waste of time that is evoked by the first fifteen seconds of the movie (a new record), in which a baby Shrek projectile vomits green goo all over a Spartan.   There is no better way to sum up the movie than to say, “It’s like that, y’all”.

(Shortest review ever?  Maybe, but there’s not much more to say about it.)

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