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Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

"Funny ladies doing mostly unfunny things" probably isn't that good
as an alternative title

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…

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Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses

You know, all bosses may suck, but being a boss ain't
easy either with all these crybabies about

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.

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Bad Teacher

She's so bad she should be punished. Repeatedly

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.

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Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids

So many ways this is about Employees of the Weak

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.

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World's Greatest Dad

dir: Bobcat Goldthwait
[img_assist|nid=1356|title=Being a good father is hard work. It's double the work of a half-arsed dad, and four times the work of a deadbeat dad|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=451]
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.

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Boy

dir: Taika Waititi
[img_assist|nid=1314|title=It's a Boy!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=390]
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.

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Date Night

dir: Shawn Levy
[img_assist|nid=1282|title=Even Parker Posey can't get a table at this awful restaurant|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=299]
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?

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Invention of Lying, The

dirs: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
[img_assist|nid=1227|title=If she's the genetically superior one, I'll stick with the mutants, thanks|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=306]
I’d heard a lot of bad things about this flick, not just from the average tubes of the internets level of discourse being “it’s the shittest thing ever shat out of a studio or an orifice”, but also from trusted friends, allies and confidantes, who all said, with their superior level of expression and articulation “it’s fucking shithouse, don’t see it.”

With that in mind I had one of those experiences where lowered expectations took the sting out of something I otherwise might not have liked as much, and I even ended up enjoying it. And I even laughed, which is virtually unheard of with comedies, that most serious of genres.

Ricky Gervais is who he is, and he’s very good at being Ricky Gervais. He’s also managed to very successfully parlay this version of Ricky Gervais to the world (well, to America, at least). He’s done so well at it that they (they being Hollywood) have been dazzled enough by his British wit and blinding smile into letting him direct his own films. Where he gets to play Ricky Gervais all over again.

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A Serious Man

dir: Coens
[img_assist|nid=1196|title=Master of the universe|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=294]
The Brothers Coen have made lots of films, many of them superb. They’ve been at it for a while. They’re critical darlings to this day, and everything they make is taken seriously, no matter how ludicrous it might be. And with No Country for Old Men, they received the highest possible honours Hollywood can bestow upon itself, guaranteeing them first dibs on any projects they could ever want, as long as they don’t cost too much.

Despite long careers working together, A Serious Man, of all their flicks, is the most overtly Jewish thus far (in terms of content and themes). I know that sounds odd, or vaguely anti-Semitic, but it’s not intended as such. They’re not working from an adapted screenplay, so it’s a story they themselves have written, which contains a lot of detail (I think) from their early lives. It also explicitly uses elements of the Jewish faith and the Jewish experience in America in the story it has to tell, which seems to be based on the Book of Job, amongst other things. And you can’t really get more Jewish than the Torah, can you?

Rating:

In the Loop

dir: Armando Iannucci
[img_assist|nid=1172|title=Let me have a gentle word with you|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=362]
So many swears! This movie has more swearing in it than Scarface! Think of any sweary film you can think of, and this movie has five times the amount of swearing. And that’s a lot.

It’s almost too much. It’s almost embarrassing to admit such a thing, but I was exhausted at the end of this. Partly from having laughed so much, but also from having to concentrate for so long to separate the sometimes quite inventive swearing from the actual dialogue, and then trying to remember how it all fits together, despite or because of the swearing.

Ultimately, this is a comedy. A quite funny comedy. It’s shot in that mockumentary style that has become ubiquitous since the original The Office series, and now is replicated in every corner of the medium. If you don’t know what I mean, I can simplify it quite easily: shakily filmed video mostly of people in office spaces.

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