dir: Dan Mazer
This is a terrible fucking film.
Sorry about the language. This was just a horrible experience, and I’m lacking the sensitivity and eloquence necessary to hide that fact until later in the review. It's so bad it's robbed me of my precious mental faculties! The bastards.
Perhaps they had good intentions, like the Road to Hell Paving Company. See, I’m already making excuses for them. The people involved have been good in other stuff, haven’t they? Rafe Spall was great as Evil Shakespeare in Anonymous the year before. Australian actress Rose Byrne has probably been good in something at some point in her life. Stephen Merchant has definitely been funny in a handful of things. None of them, brought together in the service of this piece of shit, were able to justify more than a few seconds of the film's eternal running time, despite whatever talents they may possess.
As the flick started, and I saw the words Working Title Films come up before the credits, I immediately thought "oh shit, we could be in store for another Love, Actually kind of rogering. Working Title has made plenty of the flick's your mother and grandmother liked back in the day, like Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Bridget Jones' Perversely Continuing Diary. They've also made some half decent stuff as well. Love, Actually isn't part of the half decent basket, beginning and ending as it does with hugging montages. And there's always the last-minute 'running to tell someone you're meant to be with you love them just before they catch a plane/bus/gondola/spaceship' used 15 times in the one film.
Little did I know that the scenes at the beginning of this film, displaying as they do the brief and thrilling courtship of the two lead characters leading up to their marriage, are the best, most human bits of the film.
After the title itself drops, I Give It a Year, and we immediately understand that this refers to the fact that no-one around the lead couple think they're going to last at all, three minutes into the film, from which it's all going to be downhill.
Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall) are horribly incompatible as a couple. Whenever they're around each other, the physical structure of the universe surrounding them seems to pulse and recoil the way our bodies try to expel our stomachs and intestines out of various orifices once we've got food poisoning. I'm not oblivious to the fact that the whole point of the story is that they're not compatible, and, in fact, hate each other and are pretty repugnant whenever they're around each other. That's obvious. I get that. It's hard to miss. As you're watching it, however, you're compelled to think "what exactly are we meant to be hoping for other than death?"
dir: Jonathan Lisecki
It was either this or The Hobbit, and I didn’t really want to review The Hobbit, so, here goes.
I know this sounds like a parody of a movie, like a joke trailer within a Tropic Thunder-like satire which would inevitably star Jack Black as the giant Gayby, but Gayby is a real film, in the sense that it’s not a joke and that it has actors in it, and it runs for nearly an hour and a half, the length God always intended all films to run.
Gayby covers the babymaking misadventures of a bunch of people, but mostly those of straight Jenn (Jenn Harris) and her best friend Matt (Matthew Wilkas) who happens to be gay. The adventure they want to go on involves the creation and raising of a baby, hence the portmanteau title of Gay + Baby = Gayby. How they know the baby is going to be gay is never explained, but I’m sure it’s not really relevant.
Mostly the flick, which trades on the apparently very real phenomena of lots of gay people trading their various bits of DNA, with or without turkey basters, in order to help each other have lots and lots of babies in Brooklyn, and probably lots of other places, is about whether Jenn and Matt will stay friends. That’s really what’s at stake, because the baby is kind of the participant’s award everyone gets just for competing.
Friends since college, they overcome the natural difficulty that a gay man and any woman, hetero or otherwise, would generally encounter attempting to engender new life together; not with alcohol, not with hypnosis, but just with some self-administered hand cranking. It’s awkward, but not horribly awkward, not painfully awkward. It’s as awkward as you’d imagine it would be, and I guess there's humour in that.
dir: Jason Moore
I like pleasant surprises. Well, duh. What person out of the 7 billion who grace this planet with their presence doesn’t?
It’s the unpleasant surprises we are not partial to. The lump in a bodily location where lumpiness should just not be. The realisation, post bending-over, that one’s pants have achieved a new configuration, including a vast gap where seams should reign supreme. Waking up to find someone, at this happy time of the year, actually dressed as Santa Claus, breathing heavily, in your bedroom, going through your stuff, stinking strongly of meth.
All unpleasant, all unwanted, all unappreciated. Pleasant surprises are far rarer, but much more enjoyable. I enjoyed Pitch Perfect despite the fact that I absolutely should hate a movie like this, any movie like this. After all, it features singing, and is as much a product of the current pop cultural obsession with Glee, American Idol and shit of that ilk.
It’s also so twee-ly American, it’s set in college, it’s structured like a sports film, and it has montages galore.
So how could I like this? How could I have enjoyed a single second of this entire farcical deal? Well, I don’t have to explain myself to you. I just enjoyed it. That’s it. End of story.
Okay, honestly, I realise I do have to justify myself to you, each and every time. In fact, if I don’t justify my opinions each and every time I write something, then surely my reviews would be even more worthless than I suspect they are. If I can’t nut out whatever kernels of goodness exist in the morass of movies, or the dark seams of stupidity, cupidity and evilness that permeate everything else, then I’m not really satisfying the dictates of my heaven-ordained vocation.
dir: Leslye Headland
You might think that this is a bandwagon-jumping exercise, trying to capitalise on the success of Bridesmaids, but it doesn’t really feel like that, especially since so much time has passed. People have moved on. This is based on a play, written by the woman who directs here as well, so obviously it predates Bridesmaids, and it’s classy art, baby. I mean, surely all movies based on plays have class up the wazoo?
Obviously, it has plenty more in common with Bridesmaids. It has a mostly female cast, it’s meant to be a comedy, it somewhat focuses on a character who resents her female friend for getting married before her, and some foul stuff happens along the way.
The similarities pretty much end there. I had significant issues with Bridesmaids, in that I felt the characters were blah and the dynamics they were mining for alleged comedy gold were regressive and fairly sexist. But, put simplistically, I couldn’t fault it in terms of delivering what it promised: it was a comedy structured like a comedy giving the ladies what they wanted.
Bachelorette is a completely different film. It’s probably not a comedy, in that I didn’t really find that much to laugh at, but calling it a drama insults dramas everywhere. The dramatic stuff seems too jokey and the comedic stuff doesn’t really cause laughs to erupt from one’s throat. It was, at least, amusing enough, and, dare I say it, somewhat more honest.
The women here are, and this isn’t a moral judgement on my part, all awful. They’re awful in pretty standard ways, in that they’re petty, cruel and most of them are exhibiting different types of personality disorders, to put it mildly.
dir: Julie Delpy
Yeah, there really aren’t enough flicks set in New York, you know. Seconds, sometimes minutes go by in cinemas across the world where people are occasionally looking at footage of cities other than New York. It’s a shocking statistic.
2 Days in New York tries to correct this terrible shortage, this famine of the soul, by gifting us with the antics of some not-very-likeable people in New York going to Central Park and the Statue of Liberty and every other cliché you can think of.
Julie Delpy, who also directs, edits, wrote the screenplay, the music, made the sandwiches and probably stood outside cinemas urging people to come inside and watch her movie, decided a sequel to her earlier flick 2 Days in Paris was mandatory, instead of optional. She stars as Marion, a French woman with a kid living in New York with her new partner Mingus (Chris Rock) and his kid.
Her intention, both in life and in this film seems to be to reinforce clichés and stereotypes about French people that even Americans who reflexively hate them without knowing any French people, never knew about. It’s one thing to do a take on the old “my in-laws are visiting and I just wish they would leave us alone and die” by adding “my in-laws are visiting and they’re awful French people” when you’re an American pandering to an American audience. I’m not exactly sure who Delpy is pandering to, since she comes off the worst perhaps out of all the awful people she depicts in this.
I’ve front-loaded this review by making it sound like it’s awful: it’s not totally awful. Chris Rock is in it, and he’s entertaining enough, though I didn’t really need to see him talking to a cardboard cut-out of Obama in a chummy way. If I wanted to see that I’d sit through and endure the presidential debates, which definitely constitute cruel and unusual punishment on the viewer. I like Julie Delpy, and have for a long time, and there are a few moments in this that I didn’t dislike her character. But her character is played fairly annoyingly, and it seems to be deliberate on her part, so I’m not sure what she’s trying to say about anything.
dir: Whit Stillman
Whit Stillman, oh how I've missed you.
It's been ever so long since Last Days of Disco. Barcelona was an age ago, and Metropolitan, your first flick came out so long ago they've already put out 20th anniversary editions of the film. And now you've gifted us with another film to add to your in no way unique but still much appreciated genre of wordy upper class twits fumbling through life and live.
With Damsels in Distress, you're reminded, if you liked his previous films, of why you liked his previous films. If you hated the other ones, and I've spoken to people who think Barcelona was the most fucking obscenely tedious flick in cinematic history, and these are people who'd sat through some of Bela Tarr's eight-hour epics or Tarkovky's Solaris in single sessions, then Damsels in Distress will also fill you with that deep abiding rage you'd forgotten all about.
For me, it was like catching up with an old friend. Such an occasion can be both a good and bad experience. You're reminded of what you liked about them back in the day. You're also reminded that, with no 'present' between you, all you share in common is a common appreciation of moments distant in time, and that's just nostalgia.
There's no future in that. There is a future, hopefully, for Stillman, it's just that I wish his films didn't fall apart like cheap underwear at the end.
This film chugged and rolled along quite amiably for me for much of its length. I found it to be all the things you'd hope a Whit Stillman flick would be: witty, funny, wordy, pithy and pleasant for about half its length.
And then I think they ran out of money, so it just seemed to end.
Stillman, similar to that group of filmmakers from the 90s he is often grouped with, who had nothing else in common other than the American 90s arthouse scene like Hal Hartley, Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, is that for a while at least, they seemed to be making very idiosyncratic, very personal films. When their actors 'got' what they were doing, they seemed to be embodying a very particular movement in cinema, giving hope to us all.
Then they repeated themselves ad nauseum, with the same tired quirks and fall-backs, same lazy actors and acting and the director's idiosyncratic vision and unique take on the world ended up looking like the stunted musings of artists trapped in their own intellectual basement. They ended up prematurely Woody Allening all over themselves and us.
dir: Nicholas Stoller
Is five years a really long time for an engagement? I've got friends who've been engaged for fourteen years. Where's their parade? Where's their movie?
And they definitely deserve one. These two people in this flick? Hmm, not so sure.
Emily Blunt, who is trying to be in everything that comes out at the moment, and Jason Segel play two people, Violet and Tom, who love each other enough to be in a relationship, but not enough to transcend the array of problems that surround them. Mostly, the flick seems to be about the sacrifices one partner has to make in order to keep the other partner happy. The 'sacrifice' isn't anal, or threesomes or cuckolding fetishes; in this day and age, it's employment. One member of the couple gets the chance for their ideal job, necessitating a move to a new town, for the job that will fulfill and empower them, and the other one is left with nothing.
It's not fair, is it? Of course, one must weigh up a lot of factors when deciding if this is the right way to go. How much do you love the person? How great (and how well recompensed) is the job they want, and the versa of the vice is, how attached are you to your town and your fulfillment through employment? How easy will it be for you to find work in the new place, or to develop new support networks and find fulfillment outside of your better or worse half's ambitions?
dir: Seth McFarlane
Seth McFarlane makes the jump to the silver screen, and the world is so much of a better place for that transition. I mean, before, if you wanted to avoid Family Guy, American Dad or The Cleveland Show, what you had to do was change the channel by expending the necessary energy to press a button on your remote. Exhausting work. In a cinema, however, there is no escape from such McFarlaneness.
A boy (who grows up to be played by Marky Mark Wahlberg with none of the Funky Bunch in sight) exhorts the heavens with a tremendous wish: that the cosmos grant him one friend to alleviate the loneliness that smothers his existence. And the cosmos, or Jesus, or Loki, for some reason, agrees to this pathetic request.
This avatar created by divine intervention takes on a strange but pleasing form, that of an ensouled teddy bear, voiced by McFarlane as well. Is this a problem for anyone? Well, there is a bit in the movie where Ted tells a bunch of people at a party that he doesn't think he really sounds that much like Peter Griffin from Family Guy.
Hilarious in-reference, definitely. Ted sounds pretty much exactly the same as Peter Griffin, with the occasional lapse into Brian the dog from the same show. Ted is CGI, which makes his sometimes reprehensible behaviour both more palatable and more strange as a juxtaposition between his cuteness and his depravity. McFarlane will never in his life be accused of being a subtle motherfucker, and his entire oeuvre is defined by two things: the semblance of politically incorrect transgression, and constant 80s references.
Ted is abundant with both, overflowing with them, and yet the flick ends up seeming, perversely, like a tamer rendering of his television exploits.
In truth, the flick is basically a oft-told contemporary story: guy in his mid-30s is nice but pretty immature and irresponsible, and the love of a good woman (Mila Kunis), or, more importantly, the threat of losing the love of that good woman, will force him to grow up and become a responsible adult. It's the same product of the concept of 'extended adolescence' that gave us such man-child classics as The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and almost every other movie that's come out in the last ten years, whether they have Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd or Jason Seagal in them or not.
dir: David Wain
Goddamn hippies. You would think, from this flick and flicks like it, that hippies are worthy of more contempt and loathing than almost every other classification, subculture or type of human in this world. A village full of kiddie fiddlers and hedge fund managers doesn’t rival the awesome awfulness of a bunch of hippies, apparently.
At least to Americans, I guess. Whether they’re contemptible wretches worthy of that contempt or not (all of them, not just some of them or most of them, every single fucking one of them!) is not of tremendous relevance. It’s not as if this flick is going to change any opinions about anything along the way, or raise awareness or anything. That’s not its purpose. The flick isn’t even interested in characters, or characters coming to terms with things, or overcoming things, or anything like that. No flick about hippies that has Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in lead roles is interested in achieving anything so bold, any so radical.
As much as I like Paul Rudd, if there’s another actor who varies less between roles I haven’t had the honour of discovering him yet. And Aniston, well, if there’s an actress with even less range, science hasn’t discovered her yet.
So casting them here as a yuppie couple who fall upon hard times is the kind of decision a Microsoft program could have come up with unaided: “They’re Bland Enough and Up for Whatever!” the poster could scream.
dir: Larry Charles
Meh. It’s no Borat, but then again, it’s going for something else. Something very much else.
The film starts with a dedication in loving memory to recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, long may his crazy ass fry in hell, and it’s called The Dictator, so we’re expecting an Ali G – South Park level of subtlety and historical complexity right off the bat.
Or maybe we’re not.
Sometimes, as audiences, we get not what we’d like but what we deserve. Since, like an undisciplined child, Sacha Baron Cohen’s bad behaviour not only goes unpunished or ever corrected, but is instead rewarded with money, critical acclaim and redheaded wives, he ends up giving us exactly what we might not like, but should totally expect.
The fundamental difference here is that he’s acting with other actors, and not inflicting his persona onto unsuspecting members of the public. What this shares with the other flicks is that he behaves in a similarly vulgar and boorish manner, in order to make us laugh, but the other characters, in on the act, either ignore, feign shock towards or applaud his repellent behaviour.
When he does this stuff in Borat or Bruno, the bits that should or would otherwise horrify a decent human being are why it matters to us, and where the humour comes from. Otherwise it’s pretty weak sauce.
On the other hand, a phrase I hate which I’ll never use again under threat of cutting one of my hands off once those words leave my fingers ever again, it would have been hard for Cohen to play a ‘real’ dictator, because that would either get him shot, jailed or at the head of some tinpot dictatorship for real. He is trying, after all, to wrest laughs from that profoundly unfunny subject, which is the genocidal awfulness of despots in their various horrible countries.
dirs: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
File this under “should not have worked, but somehow did.” If such a file exists. Which it probably doesn’t.
In truth they could have just called this flick A Couple of Dicks Go Back to School and had exactly the same story without any of the Jump Street references or cameos, and it probably would have succeeded just as well, though it probably wouldn’t have made as much money.
I freely admit I was a fan of the show as a kid, and watched its first four years religiously, as in, always on the Sabbath. Loved the show, loved how moralising and try-hard it was, loved especially the various depictions of the teen experience forced through the filter of episodic police procedural television, with its “I learned something today” consistency. It was very of its time, dealing with the horrors of white kids using drugs, the rise of AIDS, the eternal tensions between parents, teachers and kids, and funky hairstyles. At least, at first, it was one of the only bright spots in that dark age known as the 1980s.
Nothing except eternity lasts forever, and even that the quantum physicists are always trying to fuck with, so Jump Street came and went, all the other actors went back to the obscurity they so richly deserved, and Johnny Depp went on to become the most powerful and highest paid actor in human history.
Time passed, and the kind of shit-eating creativity-free movie producers who think anything that exists should only exist as an amalgam of something else, “It’s like Schindler’s List meets the Pussycat Dolls” or “It’s like Pulp Fiction crossed with Spongebob Squarepants!”, decided this needed to be remade. Good for us, I guess.
Instead of following the template of the tv show, it mocks it entirely, creates its own dynamic between two leads completely unlike any of the characters from the show, and goes off on its own course, without a hint of seriousness or faux gravitas.
What’s strangest is that the two leads, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) don’t just seem like young adults returning to school, they act, for our benefit in the audience, like two people who were cryogenically frozen for a few decades in order to seem like naifs in a contemporary American high school.
dir: Stephan Elliot
I am a simple man. Anyone who’s ever met me or read these here reviews will probably have figured that out for themselves by now. So if I watch a comedy whose sole purpose is to make me laugh, presumably, then I consider that comedy to be a success if I laugh.
In that light, to put it very simplistically, this movie made me laugh, it is a comedy, so therefore I give it my highest honour possible, being “eh, it wasn’t too bad.”
That’s not to say that it’s a good film, by any definition other than the one I just offered. It’s clumsy, it’s poorly acted, it’s erratically edited, it’s got actors in it who shouldn’t be in it, or in films in general and specifically, and it’s got a lot of crude, stupid humour.
Shit like that, though, literally and figuratively, makes me laugh sometimes, and I laughed a handful of times while watching this trenchant and probing examination of marriage in the current milieu.
Being a simple man doesn’t stop me from over-complicating things endlessly, though. The main reason for that is this: I’m a simple man who’s also intensely neurotic. So allow me to offer apologies and explanations for this here review and this here flick.
I thought this was an Australian flick made for domestic consumption, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It became pretty obvious after a while that there was a thoroughly misguided attempt to make this flick in Australia aimed at a British audience.
Most of the flick transpires at a stately country manner perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Blue Mountains, possibly one of the most beautiful parts of the entire world. Every time the flick used a certain shot where the big sky appeared in the background, I would filter out the humans in shot, and whatever the hell they were saying, and just sigh at the beauty of that vista, of that panorama, of that exquisite vision splendid.
Then I’d be rudely dragged back into a very contrived and very clumsy story relating to a bunch of Brits acting like total fuckwits in Australia.
dir: Jennifer Westfeldt
Look, those of you who don’t have kids and who have friends with kids: I know that those of us with them can be pretty annoying, but you don’t have to try to punish us by making films about it. Honestly, most of us aren’t that horrible. Some of us are, but not most, I hope.
Some friends who have kids, sure, are worse than fifty Hitlers, and are completely self-obsessed and self-focussed, and are constantly telling you how little they’re sleeping and how hard they’re doing it, and what saints they goddamn are for doing something no-one forced them to do and that billions of other people seemed to have managed without turning it into such a goddamn saga, but that’s not the fault of the kids.
Let’s be honest, they were probably annoying fuckers to begin with. As a wise man once said: Look into your hearts. You know it to be true.
This flick might have arisen from the simple observation of some people, being Jennifer Westfeldt, that some of her friends became arseholes when they became parents. Maybe it wasn’t a general observation, maybe it was a specific one, maybe Jennifer and her husband’s friends did all turn into horrible, sniping, perpetually angry arseholes. Maybe they’re exaggerating a little bit to justify making a movie about it. Perhaps some viewers will see some similarities between these gorgons and zombies onscreen and their own friends; perhaps it will resonate with millions of angry, dejected people who mourn the loss of their friendships with Friends who now have Kids.
At the very least I would hope that a fair number of viewers would see this flick, if they bother to, and think, “Goddamn, your friends, Jennifer, totally suck, because my friends, on the other hand, seem to do okay as parents, didn’t transform like werewolves once their kids dropped out of their fecund wombs, don’t pressure me/us horribly on a daily basis to breed as well, and still retain some of the qualities I enjoyed about them before they became ‘dreaded’ parents.”
I hope that holds true for some people, because if this flick is any accurate portrayal of what everyone everywhere is like (it isn’t), then we parents have a lot to answer for, possibly at the Hague in front of a war crimes tribunal.
People certainly can become a bit boring once they become parents, but that hardly justifies a whole romantic comedy about it. Romantic comedies, like the death penalty, should only be used in the most extreme and untenable of circumstances. Anything less than that, and you risk throwing the whole moral structure of human civilisation out of whack.
dir: James Bobin
And now, from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. Having spent a fair few hours this summer in the cinemas with my angelic / demonic child, we’ve traversed the entire current cinematic experience as it exists for the children of this city. There have been ups, and downs, mostly downs, at least from my viewpoint, but there have been some hours spent in the illuminated gloom that were enjoyable for us both.
The most surprising, in that I can’t believe she enjoyed it considering how dated, self-referential, meta and ‘adult’ it is, is this flick, The Muppets.
What a deceptive title. I mean, there have been so many Muppets flicks, but I guess not for a while. Thing is, for her, being all of five, she’s never seen the Muppets tv show. She never saw perplexing cameos from Roger Moore, Twiggy, Vincent Price or Johnny Cash or Liberace, or wondered why these sometimes drunk people were chatting to these furry puppets like they were real people. She never saw the stack of flicks from the 80s, or heard the musical numbers, or owned any of the holy merchandise.
Nor did she know anything about the perverse love/hate insanely passionate relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Nor should she.
She did, as every kid in the first and second but possibly not third world knew the infamous Mahna-Mahna song, which should replace every national anthem and religious hymn the world over. But to her, I guess puppets equal fun, so there’s that, at least.
dir: Ruben Fleischer
Getting Jesse Eisenberg and director Ruben Fleischer together again after Zombieland must have sounded like a good idea, since they did pretty well on their first time out. Inserting Aziz Ansari into the mix might have sounded good, because Aziz is pretty funny, whether as a stand-up or as a comedic actor.
But then someone somehow thought Danny McBride would improve things as well, and so we have 30 Minutes or Less: a mediocre flick so pointless and ineffable that the rage it could inspire doesn’t have time to coalesce before the film evaporates.
I’m telling you for free, Hollywood: Danny McBride improves nothing. Smearing shit on a Picasso doesn’t make it more valuable. Au contraire, fuckers.
Not that, oh no, don’t get me wrong, not that this flick would have been a Cubist masterpiece without McBride’s value-adds. No, it would still have been utterly pointless and forgettable. It just wouldn’t have been as annoying.
I have been accused a fair few times in my reviews of often focussing on other films instead of the one I’m actually trying to review, to the review’s detriment. I’ll cop to that, only because sometimes it’s more interesting to talk about those other flicks. Who wouldn’t rather be talking about Aliens instead of Cowboys and Aliens, or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter instead of The Lincoln Lawyer, or The Bride Wore Black instead of Bridesmaids?
Be that as it may, the review for 30 Minutes or Less is the place to talk about 30 Minutes or Less, and not the thousands of other better movies I could be discussing.
This flick is decidedly....meh. Jesse Eisenberg plays the same hyper-verbal emotionally leotarded young chap he always plays, and Aziz plays a guy who talks in a high-pitched whine a lot, but mostly they’re meant to be friends. And we’re meant to find them likable. Danny McBride and Nick Swardson play two other close friends, who are even more pathetic and painfully stupid than the first pair.
Wow, two dramaturgical dyads, mirroring each other for comparison and contrast. Hooray for us!
dir: Jesse Peretz
Ah, a finer adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot we’ll never get in our lifetimes. Even Akira Kurosawa’s version isn’t this good.
Yeah, I’m pulling your leg. I’m pulling the heck out of your leg. This isn’t a particularly good movie, but it’s not the worst flick ever made either.
Now that’s a ringing recommendation, isn’t it? The thing is, though, I really did enjoy this movie. I pretty much enjoyed it solely because of Paul Rudd’s performance as the likeable idiot of the title.
For much of the flick, the impression we’re meant to have is that whilst his family might see him as an idiot, he’s not an idiot. He might come across as naïve, or too trusting, but generally he’s just a happy-go-lucky guy surrounded by cynical, selfish, awful people.
And then he does some stuff that could only really be done by an idiot, or at least someone with strong idiotic tendencies. Sometimes, even when someone isn’t entirely something, they can sidle close enough up to it that they might as well ‘be’ the label they’d like to avoid.
Ned (Paul Rudd), who’s pretty much a hippy in the modern age, is so trusting that when a uniformed police officer asks him if he’s got some dope, considering what a difficult, stressful week the cop’s had, Ned believes him and gives him some dope.
That’s what he does: he believes people, believes the best of people. If they’re going to be pricks about it, like, if the cop actually arrests him and Ned gets jailed, well, that’s the cop’s fault and the cop’s problem.
Can you see the inevitable problem with this kind of thinking? Maybe not. Maybe you’re a fairly zen kind of person, and you believe in the kind of concept that the universe gives a damn about our actions, and rewards or punishes people because of their karma, man.
If so, then Ned’s going to seem like a fucking guru to you.
dir: Todd Phillips
Second verse? Same as the first.
Anyone who paid good money to see this flick, and complained that it was exactly the same plot as the first obviously doesn’t understand what the purpose of a flick called The Hangover Part II was really meant to be.
I didn’t pay good money to see it, because all of my money is tainted with the blood of the innocent and the guilty alike, and I expected it to be exactly what it was, and thus I enjoyed more than the first flick. It’s not better than its predecessor, nor could it be, really. Honestly, these flicks are less movies than they are long, stretched sketch, with multiple gaglets along the way before a punchline that can’t live up to anything.
It doesn’t have to. The premise is so fucking simple, and so enjoyable, that nothing else matters. Characterisation, believable dialogue, people acting sanely is completely unnecessary and unwanted.
Why? Because it’s about that most awesome of things: getting fucked up and not being able to remember the reprehensible shit you got up to the night before.
There’s no Oscar in that. There’s no longing to peer into the depths of the human condition. There’s no need for some Ingmar Bergman-like exploration of man’s misery in the face of God’s silence. It’s about terrible people doing terrible stuff, not remembering either the fun or the awfulness, and trying to find one of their number who’s gone missing.
They’re not trying to make amends. They’re not seeking redemption. What evil they’ve perpetrated they won’t even get punished for, nor will they learn anything from their experience together. But as long as they find the missing chap, and get to the wedding on time, everything will be forgiven and the world will click back into place.
Of course this flick follows exactly the same template as the first flick. Why would it not? I would argue the very universe would collapse in on itself if they varied the formula one iota. It’s in the performance of exactly the same actions, the same framework that transcendence arises, like a Zen monk making the same perfect circles for decades with his rake in a sand garden, until he just can’t take it any more and shoots up the place with an AK.
dir: Woody Allen
Woody Allen… Woody Fucking Allen…
Eh, let’s not go there. Let’s just focus on the fact that there is a film out, and I watched it, and here’s a review of it.
Midnight in Paris doesn’t have Woody Allen in it, so that’s already a plus. The late era renaissance continues for Allen, who is still making films that star famous people, and still get reviewed by people, almost incredulously. It boggles the mind.
Regardless, any film without Allen still has an Allen surrogate in it, and this flick’s surrogate is played by Owen Wilson. He’s a nice enough chap, and nowhere near as neurotic or painful as the usual Allen surrogate.
His problem, and there’s always a problem, is that he’s more focussed on the past than the present. There are probably lots of good reasons for this. The main reason is that his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams) is an awful harridan of a human being, so awful that she’s, like, worse than fifty fucking Hitlers.
Independent of his awful relationship with this person, it seems like being in Paris kindles all sorts of misgivings, regrets, passions and longings within him. It is the City of Lights, after all, with an infamous history, but a lot of it, all the same. As Gil is a writer, naturally his thoughts tend towards both the self-involved and the literary titans of the past who frequented Paris during its many heydays.
And, whodda thunkit? He gets to meet them.
The clock strikes midnight, he gets a bit drunk, and then Gil is hanging out with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ernest Hemingway and every other non-French famous person you can possibly recall who might have been in Paris in the 1920s.
How? Does it matter? Why? Well, it’s for Gil’s (and our) amusement, and for his journey of discovery. See, Gil needs actors playing Gertrude Stein and Picasso and Dali and Luis Bunuel and Hemingway to convince him that his fiancée is a bitch and that he’s better off living in the present and focussing on the virtues of the present, rather than tripping down nostalgia lane for ever more.
dir: Paul Feig
If this is the ‘female’ response to what is commonly and erroneously referred to as the Summer of Judd Apatow – raunchy comedies, then what the fuck was the question? I’m sure there are plenty of mouthbreathers who were wondering: “Shoot, what would a flick like The Hangover be like if it was all chicks? Yeah, and how do they get I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to taste like butter so much?”
The answer to both is not worth speaking, or hearing, really.
This isn’t really a raunchy comedy showcasing female comedic talent. Kristen Wiig as the lead, and Maya Rudolph have both been funny in stuff, and in far funnier films than this. The problem here is that, for a comedy, it’s not really that funny.
It’s far more of a low-stakes drama than anything else, because all of the impetus of the plot is about how shitty the main character feels because her best friend has some other friend. In other words, this groundbreaking and radical comedy is all about how bitchy, shallow, insecure and jealous women are.
It’s almost as if we live in a universe where the Sex and the City series and movies don’t exist. What a sweet universe that would be…
Also, what it’s not about is how fucking insane some otherwise sane women become when it comes to getting married. Instead of mocking or even deriding the wedding porn – Bridezilla mentality that’s becoming ever more prevalent even as I bloviate during this review, it celebrates it. Any misgivings it might have about the phenomenon, or the behaviour of the women in relation to wedding hysteria in general is diverted by the fact that all of the conflict comes down to a woman being jealous of another woman, whose shitty life then falls apart because of her jealousy.
What I find weirdest about all of this is that Kristen Wiig developed and co-wrote the script. So this funny, talented woman who’s been good in a bunch of flicks, far better than on Saturday Night Live, I’ll tell you that much for free, wanted this? She wanted to play this pathetic creature voluntarily? She created it?
It’s like watching Germaine Greer play Ally McBeal in an episode she wrote herself. Well, maybe not quite the same.
There’s less cursing and self-aggrandisement that there would have been with Germaine at the helm.
dir: Seth Gordon
Everyone hates their boss, apparently. A flick like this is mining a rich seam of resentment, universal and eternal, that bubbles malevolently under the surface of every working stiff.
And at a time when people in the States either don’t have jobs, or are nervous about job security, a flick, ostensibly a comedy flick with protagonists so trapped by their evil bosses that they contemplate murder, doesn’t seem that outlandish.
It’s probably not that zeitgeist-y, since people have long imagined (or unfortunately, actually) going postal, and cruel petty bosses are a staple of pop culture and literature. It has been for thousands of years, if you believe the Bible. Let’s face it, if you don’t, you’re a godless heathen and I applaud you for your winning ways.
This flick is not a black comedy, despite the premise. It sounds ‘dark’, but it’s not. It’s utterly harmless, and I don’t think that hurts the flick at all. If anything, the fact that it’s so gutless, and that the protagonists are so gutless means that the superficiality allows us to enjoy a bit of fantasy wish-fulfilment without feeling guilty.
Wait, that’s a bad thing, isn’t it? I should be cursing the fuck out of this flick.
But I’m not going to. I actually laughed a fair few times, and didn’t care how silly any of it was, because it was enjoyable.
Three friends each suffer under the reign of terror their bosses embody. Nick (Jason Bateman, playing the same Jason Bateman role he plays in everything) is an obsequious lickspittle who even Smithers would look at with disgust. He licks the boots of a far greater man, being his boss, played by Kevin Spacey. Though thoroughly nasty, the boss Spacey plays here is nowhere near as evil as the one he played in Swimming With Sharks, so this one’s practically a humanitarian by comparison.
Still, the ungrateful fuck Nick still complains and complains about his terrible circumstances to his friends, who have their own problems. Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) is himself a scumbag, but his coke-head new boss (Colin Farrell, sporting an awesome comb-over), is an even bigger scumbag. He is asked to fire the disabled and the overweight because they disgust the boss, and who is Kurt to argue with managerial prerogative?
dir: Jake Kasdan
Look, I find it strange that people keep equating or comparing this flick with the Terry Zwigoff flick Bad Santa. As far as I can tell, having watched both, the only thing they have in common is the same adjective in the title. Other than that, there’s no connection.
I mean, does Cameron Diaz piss her pants at any stage? Does she sodomise a plus-size woman in the change rooms at a mall? Does she generally indulge in behaviour that would get most people arrested, let alone fired from their job as an educator of young minds?
Well, actually, on that last point…
Maybe they’re linked in spirit, but Bad Santa was such a singular act of misanthropy that it seems churlish to compare anything to it, even despite the ridiculous ‘happy’ ending the Weinsteins forced onto the end of the flick. Bad Teacher’s trading on something less radioactive, but probably more enjoyable.
As well, as opposed to any flick by Terry Zwigoff, the main purpose of Bad Teacher is to be a funny, and a funny workplace comedy at that. And I found it pretty goddamn funny, truth be told.
dir: Miguel Arteta
I have never been to Cedar Rapids. It’s very unlikely that I’m ever going to go to Cedar Rapids. It is in Iowa, in the States, after all. It’s not like anyone should ever go to Cedar Rapids, because it seems to be the city equivalent of the colour beige.
But I very much enjoyed watching this flick called Cedar Rapids.
Deceptive title. It’s not about Cedar Rapids. It’s about a somewhat strange but mostly harmless chap called Tim (Ed Helms), who’s led a very sheltered life thus far. He’s not a manchild like the majority of the manchild arrested development shitbirds who populate the majority of movies these days. But he is someone who has lived a fairly quiet life, who has never travelled and who has never wanted to.
In some ways he’s like the main character from The Truman Show except without thousands of conspiring people and millions of dollars worth of artifice keeping him ground down and in place for ratings and product placement opportunities.
He works as an insurance guy, which, in most flicks of this type, wouldn’t be an issue, but for Tim it defines most of his existence. All he has is his job, his unshakeable faith in Insurance as being a force for good in people’s lives, and his odd sexual relationship with a woman who used to be his teacher when he was a child (Sigourney Weaver). Circumstances at work force him to leave the comfortable rut he’s created for himself, in order to brave the Sodom and Gomorrah that is Cedar Rapids.
dir: Bobcat Goldthwait
The name Bobcat Goldthwait is not one that resonates in the hall of fame of respected comedy directors. The main reason is that there isn’t a hall, alcove or basement of fame of respected directors of comedies, since there are so few of them, so few in fact that they could all fit in a broom closet, bathroom or crawlspace with room to spare.
It’s a name that probably doesn’t come up in common public discourse, or in personal conversations between lovers in bed post-coitally “You really Bobcatted my Goldthwait good tonight, baby”, or a name used by the Pope in his annual chastising pronouncements, or by the Queen in her Christmas address.
In fact, anyone under thirty has probably never heard of him, and those over thirty wish they could forget him and his eardrum shredding voice.
Which is a shame, because his long career as a standup comedian, his brief career as a successful actor in Police Academy films, and the intervening years where he struggled for meaning and money meant that he made the shift over to directing films, with some success. And so here he directs Robin Williams in a flick that looks for all the world like a comedy, again, with some success.
dir: Taika Waititi
Do you remember a time when Michael Jackson was neither an obituary notice nor a punchline to an increasingly sad set of jokes? Do you remember when everybody had names that came from popular alcoholic beverages and American soap operas? And do you remember when ET was the closest we could come to a cinematic hero who was like Jesus, Buddha and Chuck Norris all rolled up into one?
If you can’t, then you’re either under twenty, you’re Amish, or you’re just not from an era that has much in common with the world Taika Waititi tries to conjure up for our delectation and amusement in this here flick Boy.
Set and filmed in Waihau Bay, which is on the East Cape, south-east of Auckland on the North Island, Boy is also set in the heady days of the 1980s, 1984 to be exact. Boy himself (James Rolleston) greets us with a show-and-tell summary of his existence in this impoverished town, and his complicated family life, and all the things he loves or doesn’t love about his life.
The tone of the flick, like Boy himself, is light and funny. He’s a chatty and sweet boy, even if his introduction to us involves a fight with a vulgar schoolmate who taunts him over his mother’s death.
Boy lives with his brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and a multitude of cousins on his grandmother’s farm, where they generally look after each other. When Boy’s grandmother leaves for a week to go to a funeral in Wellington, Boy and the other kids basically look after each other as best they can, which isn't that well.
dir: Shawn Levy
Some flicks go out of their way to make you wish you were someone or something else. That’s why most entertainment is considered an escape from the mundanity of the everyday. Lose yourself in the fantasy of being some awesomely bicepped highly skilled dancer / spy / seducer / vengeful mutant dentist, and pay us before you’re done, thanks. Not after, before. No refunds.
Other flicks applaud the fact that you, the viewer, are a mundane mediocrity, whose hopes and dreams have been squashed by life, by your own laziness and timidity, and that you are just as you should be. We, Hollywood, wouldn’t want you any other way. Because if you weren’t just as you are, the perfect consumer who can purchase whatever you want, set your life up just as you want, but still always feel vaguely dissatisfied, then why would you be watching Hollywood’s crap? You’d have no need for us and our special magic any longer. And how would we survive?
Occasionally, only a few times over the course of a lifetime, the Hollywood machine produces a flick that not only applauds the fact that white middle class people feel like there’s a lack of passion and excitement in their lives; a passion and excitement that other people elsewhere are always feeling, but it sets out to say, “Hey, you’re all right. All you need is a little bit of an adventure to get you out of your rut, and then everything will be all right.”