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Comedy

Comedy

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

So quirky there should be laws against it, forcing them to go on the run

dir: Taika Waititi

2016

Sometimes you watch a trailer and say to yourself “I must watch that movie.” Sometimes you watch the movie, and think “That movie was nothing like the trailer, and now I am sad.” Other times you watch the movie and say “that was exactly like the trailer, but eh.”

But this time? This time? I was really excited about seeing Hunt for the Wilderpeople, we saw it (as a family), and I loved it thoroughly and utterly.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have seen it as a family? I thought it would skirt the edges of its PG rating, but it kinda went a tad further than I would have expected. Having your nine-year-old daughter ask you out loud at the Westgarth Cinema on a Friday night “What’s a molesterer?” is perhaps a conversation for another time.

I was, at least in some respects, pre-programmed to enjoy this. I loved Waititi’s film Boy, liked What We Do In the Shadows, and occasionally enjoyed Flight of the Conchords (the tv show he occasionally directed, whereas the band will always rank in my heart as the greatest musicians to ever come out of New Zealand except for all the other ones).

Taika makes some very quirky movies, filled to the brim with quirky characters and 80s aesthetics. Sometimes it’s oppressive. Sometimes it gibes just right with the material. In this case, it’s a pretty good fit (in terms of the actors, the quirks, and the story).

Rating:

Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!

I think a better title might have been "A Tale of Two Tildas"

dir: Coen Brothers

2016

Eh. I didn’t really get it.

This is fairly minor Coen Brothers as far as I’m concerned. Yes, I get that the Coens love the Golden Age of Hollywood. Yep, okay, got it. In case I’d never noticed before, most of the Coen Brothers’ movies are about movies. Some of their greatest work or funniest sequences have harkened back to times of yore and movies of days gone by.

But, yeah, it’s not a matter of just doing a homage/reference, or enjoying a homage/reference. The whole point of this flick is that there doesn’t really seem to be a point, other than Hollywood continuing to do what Hollywood does is probably a good thing(?)

It's the feeling I had, when Hail, Caesar! ended, that I also had at the end of Burn After Reading, a flick I genuinely, actively disliked before it ended, and downright hated once the ending basically stated outright "We have no idea what the point was, either". Endings like that are such a shoulder shrug of a statement that I can't help but feel insulted.

There's some kernel of an idea, several ideas, even. There are some keen or even endearing performances. There's an almost structure, one almost kinda similar to a detective trying to navigate a corrupt world and solve a mystery.

Rating:

Zoolander 2

Zoolander 2

These people are all very dangerously dumb. They shouldn't
be allowed to drive, or vote, or drink, or do anything, really.

dir: Ben Stiller

2016

Ye gods and little fishes – this movie is fucking terrible! This is like an anti-comedy, in essence almost every scene seems to have been put together to be as deliberately unfunny as the preceding scene, if not more so.

How do you manage to be so unfunny? How do you make it so it isn’t even accidentally funny some times, like, according to the law of averages?

Zoolander 2 doesn’t have far to drop in terms of quality as a sequel, because, in my unhumble opinion, Zoolander itself wasn’t that funny anyway. It wasn’t, I don’t think, as aggressively unfunny as this one, though. Or maybe it seems less unfunny by comparison.

I find it somewhat unfathomable. Ben Stiller has made some very funny movies. I won’t list them all, but even fairly recently, Tropic Thunder was pretty goddamn funny (for my money). I’ve even liked him in more (slightly) dramatic roles like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. But nothing could prepare me for just how awful I found this.

I laughed once during a nearly two hour film. Well, hour and forty minutes, probably. Break that down further: 100 minutes of a movie, and I laughed for about 1-2 seconds, from one gag. As a ratio, it doesn’t look good in terms of return on investment of my precious time, does it?

Rating:

Trainwreck

Trainwreck

Oh, Amy, maybe you'll get so famous from this hit that you won't have to
yell "I'm Famous!" at the people at your gym in order to be let in

dir: Judd Apatow

2015

Amy Schumer plays a thinly veiled version of Amy Schumer in a romantic comedy about Amy’s difficulties with relationships and managing her copious consumption of booze and smoke.

Can she get away with this flagrant laziness?

It’d be like me playing a nervous Comic-Book Guy lookalike who drinks a lot and plays computer games late into the night.

It’s not a challenge. It wouldn’t even really register as fiction. It’d just be a sad documentary. I also can’t imagine there’s much of a market for it. Ryan Gosling is in talks about playing the lead as we speak, so, you know...

For Amy, though, there is a market for her not-so-unique brand of self-deprecating and caustic humour, resting, as it does, on pre-emptive admissions of what a drunken strumpet she is who doesn’t fit in comfortably with conventional standards of American / Hollywood 'beauty'.

The difference is (between my autobiographical existences and this movie), the massive difference is that Amy Schumer is incredibly funny and a great stand up performer who’s taken 11 or so years of hard work to get where she is. She’s hardly an overnight success, and she’s earned every dollar and every compliment, critical or otherwise.

Rating:

Pixels

Pixels

From the Jerks that brought you all of Adam Sandler's other movies,
and your last hernia, comes Pixels! A colonoscopy in cinematic form!
Just don't bring your kids

dir: Chris Columbus

2015

Bleurgh.

It’s not in my nature to put the boot in when someone’s already down. It’s not really in my nature to put the boot in at any time, really. Being a Buddhist and all, being fairly squeamish and not ever liking getting my boots dirty, I don’t like causing pain to anyone or anything. Least of all my own foot.

I wish the people who made this flick had the same impulse.

Pixels has already been lambasted as being one of the shittiest flicks to come out in 2015, and that very consensus is what made me think the flick deserved a second chance, or at least a first viewing on my part. If anything, I would argue that the almost universal condemnation wasn’t universal or condemnatory enough.

Pixels is fucking terrible. It masqueraded as a kid’s flick in order to trick parents into taking their kids along, at least in Australia when it was released during the school holidays, but, to sound like a Concerned Parent writing a letter to a Murdoch newspaper to express my outrage simultaneously in a tizz and in high dudgeon, this flick is not for kids.

What I mean is, while the makers certainly intended for it to be watched and enjoyed by the dumbest potential mass audience, it’s not in actuality a kid or family movie.

Rating:

The Interview

The Interview

The fate of the world rests in the hands of these two dick
and arse-obsessed jerks. The world doesn't have a hope.

dir: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen

2014

Over this? You caused an international incident and nearly caused a nuclear war to start over this?

Only time will tell if The Interview was worth it. In the short term, it’s led to a baffling case of international espionage / bastardry in the form of either North Korean hackers or someone in the employ of North Korea achieving a massive hack on Sony, the company that was threatening to release this flick. And it has achieved a notoriety that it otherwise would never have earned based on what the movie is actually like.

I’m sure Sony will inflate the dollar cost of what was done to them for insurance scam purposes, like when you get burgled and you tell the guy or girl from the insurance company “why yes, and that’s where the Picasso used to hang on the wall”, but the impact on them has been huge. The infiltration of their company has resulted in bunches of films that weren’t yet released being flooded onto torrent sites, and the internal communications of the company going back years being revealed for all the world to see.

Sony’s Playstation Network, through which people can buy and stream movies, through which people could buy and stream THIS movie, was taken down, and so was the one for the Xbox, at least temporarily. All those gaming nerds… forced to step away from their screens, it must have been hell for them.

Rating:

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Million Ways to Die in the West

There might be a million ways to die, but it doesn't seem there
are a million things to laugh about, based solely on this shitty flick

dir: Seth McFarlane

2014

I couldn’t say which movie is the funniest I’ve seen this year. There are still a few months to go, so I probably haven’t seen it yet. I can safely say which is the least funny comedy I’ve seen this year, or will see this year, or in many a year.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is the least comedic comedy I’ve seen in a donkey’s age. On that score alone I have to say that for me the flick is an abject failure. What bugs me the most is that it should have been something nifty. Some poor studio gave McFarlane a huge budget and thought comedy gold and box office glory would ensue. Clearly there was no screenplay yet when that money changed hands.

McFarlane is guilty of many things, but he is someone who has made me laugh before, many times. Family Guy, Cleveland Show and American Dad may not have the stellar reputation of shows like The Simpsons or even South Park, but they do possess streams and streams of gags. Not all of them make you laugh, and most are risqué just for the sake of it, gleefully stumbling all over the fine line between ironic sexism/racism/homophobia/whateverism and actual sexism/racism etc.

Rating:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The perfect place for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and planning
invasions of Poland

dir: Wes Anderson

Another fussy diorama for our delectation…

By now you know if you like Wes Anderson films or not. He’s made enough of them that it is virtually impossible for you to have watched them and still think that there is any possibility that they could vary or be different from what you think they could be like.

This is exactly like every film he makes. In case I haven’t been explicit enough. So, if you like the other entries in his oeuvre, from The Royal Tenenbaums onwards, there’s a good chance you might ‘like’ The Grand Budapest Hotel as well. I’m aware that Royal Tenenbaums wasn’t his first flick, that being Bottle Rocket, but his fussy aesthetic wasn’t established until his second flick, so there.

Alternatively, even if you’ve liked his previous films up to the last one, being Moonrise Kingdom, you could be sick of his fussy aesthetic, the familiarity of the same actors that he tends to use and their often affectless delivery, the way everything tends to be put together in the same way and filmed in the same way, you might have reached your limit.

In other words, telling you "it's just like his other ones" is both warning and further warning, for both haters and aficionados alike.

Rating:

The World's End

The World's End

If the fate of the world rested upon the noble shoulders
of these wonderful chaps, I'd be drinking heavily too

dir: Edgar Wright

Now that’s how the World Ends in The World’s End, not with a bang, but with a pub crawl.

Yes, I know I’ve been lamenting the absolute locust plague of films and movies ending the world, despoiling the world, rebuilding it and then ruining it all over again, that have been coming out with metronomic regularity. And the last one I saw of this ilk was the despicable This Is The End, whereby my full throated lament of this apocalyptically overabundant genre made it sound like I never wanted to see any of them ever again. At the very least, Wright shows that a film about immature adults (and the potential end of the world) doesn’t itself have to be embarrassingly immature.

Mostly, I hated how the execrable This Is The End spoiled the chances of this ever being a hit. Would it have been a hit for Edgar Wright if there wasn’t title confusion in the minds of non-existent audiences everywhere, thinking that they had possibly already seen the film they hadn’t already seen just because the titles were similar?

Possibly not. Perhaps. It’s unlikely, as theories go. Perhaps it’s more likely that people weren’t as keen to go see another world ending extravaganza only a few weeks after the last one. Maybe they need a few months between apocalypses.

Rating:

This Is The End

This Is The End

If only this was the actual End, then I'd never have to endure
anything like this ever again

dir: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

This Is the End is a movie so bad that it made me wish the world itself was actually coming to an end.

It's one of the laziest pieces of shit I've seen this year. It's so terrible that all it made me think of was that someone had done a mash-up of two of Kevin Smith's worst movies, being Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It has almost the exact kind of aura of amateurish yet charmless goofiness, and seems to have arisen from the same kind of source, being dope. Specifically, it's the false sense of brilliance and hilarity that smoking dope brings many people when they think they've thought up something tremendous, but don't realise once they've straightened out that what they came up with was utter crap.

I have found many of the people in this flick funny in other flicks. Almost nothing in this flick made me laugh. Much of it made me groan in unamused disgust and growling boredom. Most of it smacked of actors thinking they're so gifted that they don't need to actually be saying or doing anything funny in order to be funny. We'll just find them funny because they're funny, and everything they do is gold.

Rating:

The Heat

The Heat

I have no idea what's going on in this poster either

dir: Paul Feig

2013

Paul Feig made Bridesmaids. Bridesmaids made, perversely, something like a billion box office bucks.

So Paul Feig can basically do what he wants. When he makes another film with who might have been the main actor in Bridesmaids (barely anyone ever remembers that Kristen Wiig was even in it), and it's a buddy cop movie with female leads, well naturally it seems like Paul Feig is a great big feminist trying to right the imbalances of the past by pushing a particular agenda for female equality in the movies.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It's pure marketing. A lot of people find Melissa McCarthy funny. I find her funny. The last few films she's been in have scored big at the box office in such a way that it's impossible to argue that it's in spite of her presence, rather than because of it. Maybe people went to Bridesmaids without any idea of who she was, but no-one went to Identity Thief because of Jason Bateman. No-one came to this because of Sandra Bullock, Demian Bichir or Marlon Wayans.

It's all Melissa McCarthy. For some brief period of time, however long or short it may be, and I hope she gets to enjoy it, she is a box office queen.

But what does all this mean? Does this mean women are in the ascendant in Hollywood? That audiences are keener to see flicks with female leads, that McCarthy has broken through barriers and glass ceilings and such?

Rating:

The Hangover Part III

Hangover part III

Die Die Die you evil bastards

dir: Todd Phillips

The posters said that. The posters promised that. It’s the only thing the posters said other than that there was a film coming out called The Hangover Part III.

The Hangover Part III. The End.

It’s a weird angle to promote a movie with, I thought, before I watched this. Were they saying ‘come watch this movie because it’s the last one in the series, and it’s your last chance to see these rascals in action”, or were they saying “come and watch this flick, or else we’ll make more of them”?

The truth is something I’m never going to know. They might make more of these if this one makes enough money. The first one made more money than Gone with the Wind. The first one probably hit a nerve, a funny nerve, and amused a lot of people.

I’m not sure what this third one is meant to do. It seems inaccurate to call it a comedy, and there’s no hangover involved, no blackout as a tribute to overindulgence, no gingerly picking-up of pieces to solve a problem or save someone’s life/reputation/marriage/colon.

It wouldn’t need to conform to that formula to have been an entertaining film. The formula itself wasn’t really the draw, I don’t think. The real draw was the premise, of a couple of guys (and one complete lunatic), in over their heads, unable to remember what had happened to them, trying to resolve some seemingly impossible situation.

Rating:

I Give It a Year

I Give It a Year

I wouldn't give these people the contents of my bladder if they
were on fire

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.

Rating:

Gayby

Gayby

Everyone's pretty in comic-book form

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.

Rating:

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

You're all winners, except for those of you who aren't

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.

Rating:

Bachelorette

Bachelorette

Don't make eye contact, don't get their attention

dir: Leslye Headland

Nasty.

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.

Rating:

2 Days in New York

2 Days in New York

They could be in two completely different films

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.

Rating:

Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress

They're so ever so tiny and distressing

dir: Whit Stillman

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.

Rating:

The Five-Year Engagement

Five Year Engagement

Just say no to marriage, people: gay or straight it's
always a mistake

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?

Rating:

Ted

Ted

Making awkward conversation while they're at it

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.

Rating:

Wanderlust

Wanderlust

You bunch of filthy hippies, who aren't really that filthy,
or hippies, for that matter

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.

Rating:

The Dictator

The Dictator

Even Castro would envy that full, luxuriant beard

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.

Rating:

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

They haven't aged a day, have they, like the immortals they deserve to be

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.

Rating:

A Few Best Men

A Few Best Men

Go back where you came from, you ten-pound Poms!

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.

Rating:

Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids

You're all laughing and smiling, but none of you are funny in this

dir: Jennifer Westfeldt

Hey. 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.

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The Muppets

The Muppets

Welcome back, gentle muppets, now please fuck off again

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.

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30 Minutes or Less

30 minutes

Less would have been better, as in either zero or negative

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.

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Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother

One person's idiot is another person's presidential candidate

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.

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The Hangover Part II

Hangover 2

Why would you ever want to wake up next to these shmucks again?

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.

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Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Not the sequel to One Night in Paris, unfortunately

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.

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