Comedy

Be Kind Rewind

dir: Michel Gondry
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Being able to enjoy a flick like this is dependent upon a few variables. A high tolerance threshold for enduring Jack Black helps. Being able to put up with yet another variation on the ‘stick up for the little guy against the heartless government/corporations’ plotline helps.

Being able to appreciate the artschool, ramshackle aesthetic / messiness and the idea that an entire community in New Jersey could be delighted by and pay good money to see short films based on famous movies starring Jack Black and Mos Def, in lieu of watching actual movies, would also be paramount.

Also, where I write ‘artschool’, what I really mean is ‘artfag’. Such a term is not exactly dripping with political correctness and sensitivity, so I’m glad I never used it in the body of this review.

Phew! Dodged a bullet on that one, eh?

In varying degrees and with varying quantities, I guess I do possess or at least entertain some of the variables previously mentioned, because I didn’t hate Be Kind Rewind, despite feeling as if I should have. Sure, it’s pretty shaggy, creaky and cheesy, but I still enjoyed the shit out of it.

Rating: 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

dir: Nicholas Stoller
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This is being released under the “Judd Apatow” banner as if Judd’s name alone is now a seal of filthy comedy approval. Wondering if a comedy is funny? Well, Judd Apatow was involved, so it must be so funny you’ll laugh until you rupture something.

Okay, so 40-Year-Old Virgin was funny, and Knocked Up was funny. Apatow directed them. But now are we really meant to believe that Apatow doesn’t even have to make the movies for them to be funny? He just “produces” them under the Apatow Productions banner, other people direct them, and they’re still full of Apatow-y goodness.

I think not. Even with the commercial and critical success of some of his comedies, the law of diminishing returns kicked in around the time of Drillbit Taylor. Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t going to kill off the Apatow bandwagon, but it might throw a wrench or two into the spokes.

It’s not a horrible film, in fact it’s relatively funny at some stages. The main actors aren’t horrible, the costumes are nice, the lighting was okay, and the make-up work is top notch throughout. I don’t know what the catering was like, but it was probably okay. No-one looks like they got sick from bad food, so that’s my assumption as to the relative merits of the food service.

Rating: 

Run, Fatboy, Run

dir: David Schimmer
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Sure, the title of this flick is a phrase that has been yelled at me by people in passing cars, the police, girlfriends and my own mother, but I’m not bitter about it…

Well, not too bitter.

Simon Pegg is becoming a ubiquitous figure of British comedy, in that a few comedies come out of Britain each year, and he seems to be in at least one of them annually. Yes, that is my new definition of ubiquity.

He’s recognisable, and has a loyal following of fans who find his antics and constant mugging amusing. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are his two most well known roles, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this flick right here is anything like those other ones.

This should not, nay, MUST not be confused with the comedies Pegg’s been in with Nick Frost and directed by Ed Wright.

Because, in case you missed it, this flick was directed by the tool who used to play Ross on Friends. Yes, the loathsome, the terrible, the horripilating David Schimmer.

This is a fairly lame and lazy romantic comedy, and had it starred someone else I probably would never have bothered seeing it. It does however have some pretty funny people in it, making up for the abjectly pathetic script.

Rating: 

Walk Hard

dir: Jake Kasdan
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Walk Hard is, truth be told, a more honest, funnier and more musically adept biopic about Johnny Cash’s life than that film that came out a few years ago with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon whose name doesn’t escape me for the moment. Truth be told, the one doesn’t exist without the other since Walk Hard is such a parody of both Walk the Line and Ray, not only in name but in structure and key moments as well. Substitute actual blindness with smell-blindness, and they’re virtually indistinguishable.

Oh, the structure. At the movie’s beginning, an aged Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) is about to go on stage, but seems to be waiting for something. A stagehand goes up and hassles him about the need to go onstage in short order. One of Dewey’s longstanding bandmates pipes up, “Can’t you see the man has to think about his entire life before he goes onstage?”

And, of course, from there the story moves back in time to where Dewey is but a boy, and playing with his much more talented and accomplished little brother Nate, who dreams of doing great things one day.

Rating: 

Superbad

dir: Greg Mottola
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I can’t really explain the 70s retro chic aesthetic that permeates this flick, from the music to the titles. It’s set contemporarily, the main characters Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are only supposed to be around 17-18. But, you know, whatever floats Judd Apatow’s boat.

Apatow, who previously struggled as a comedian, writer and creator of TV series that were good but were canned (a la Freaks and Geeks), who then became huge with the success of his comedies 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, has become this media juggernaut producing comedies that have his imprimatur upon them without having to bother directing them. He’s like Spielberg now, except without the cheese or the virgin blood drinking.

Rating: 

I Think I Love My Wife

dir: Chris Rock
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Who does Chris Rock think he’s kidding?

Watching I Think I Love My Wife reminded me, more than anything else, of two things. One is the subject of marriage as it appears in much of Chris Rock’s stand-up material. The other is the extent to which Rock must be treading dangerous waters in order to desperately convince his wife that he’s not sleeping around. Really.

Back in the sixties, notorious womaniser and acclaimed director Federico Fellini, having been caught out one too many times by his long-suffering wife Giulietta Masina, decided to make a curious little film called Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli spiriti, 1965). In this curious flick, he cast Giulietta as the main character Juliet, the long-suffering wife of a notorious womaniser and director, who tires of her husband’s infidelities and their pretentious lifestyle. She initially flirts with the idea of adultery-as-revenge, but ultimately finds more fulfilment in simply achieving freedom away from her bastard husband.

Rating: 

Blades of Glory

dir: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
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Will Ferrell as an ice figure skater? That’s the comedy cinematic equivalent of crack cocaine, isn’t it?

The people who made the film probably sold it to the company with a text message to an executive saying exactly that: “w/about Ferrell on ice?” with probably a few smiley faces and LOLs thrown in for good measure.

The entire movie is predicated on the impression that ice skating is both gay in the sense that ‘gay’ is sometimes used as a synonym for lame, and gay in the sense that it is a sport best enjoyed by and participated in by gay people. So of course Ferrell plays his character of Chazz Michael Michaels as a rampantly hetero alcoholic sex addict lothario who never actually gets laid. And of course there are lots of scenes where men have to uncomfortably hold another man’s genitals either in their hands or close to their faces in order to win something important. What’s funnier than another man’s gonads being waved in your face?

His opponent Jimmy McElroy (Jon Heder, he of Napoleon Dynamite fame), and eventual partner on the ice, is the literal golden-haired child who is taking the role that Owen Wilson surely must have turned down due to his current bout of drug abuse and suicidal tendencies.

Rating: 

Knocked Up

dir: Judd Apatow
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The advertising for this was brilliant. There were variations, of course, but their main theme was along the lines of just what a loser Seth Rogen looks like, and how unlucky any woman would be to fall pregnant because of his drunken thrustings.

The ads literally had pictures of Rogen’s goofy, almost apologetic face, with the phrase “what if this guy got you pregnant?’ or variations thereof plastered across them worldwide. Marketing genius; pure marketing genius.

Considering the fact that Rogen wrote most of the screenplay (or whatever you call the process that eventuated in this film), it’s something of an odd but extremely successful sell. In the real world, attractive women have sex with slobs all the time. And we thank you for it. But in the Hollywood film world, it’s seen as something of a gross anomaly, or at least enough of one to justify such a premise. Like some major disruption in the space time continuum, or a tear in the fabric of reality.

See, they don’t have this problem in French films. The uglier and older the French male protagonist, the hotter the French babe who adores him and has freaky French sex with him all over the place. Before she kills herself and probably him too by flick’s end.

Rating: 

Hot Fuzz

dir: Edgar Wright
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Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and probably a whole bunch of other people, try to do to the buddy cop genre what they did to the zombie genre in Shaun of the Dead. If you saw and liked Shaun, then you know what to expect.

If you hated Shaun, then you probably haven’t got a hope in hell of getting anything out of this here flick.

Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is an extremely driven cop who is so good at his job with the metropolitan police that they transfer him out to the boondocks because he makes the rest of them look bad. When he gets to the sleepy, quiet town, he discovers that there’s more going on than meets the eye.

The locals are the expected group of quirky hicks you’d expect from a British flick of such a nature, populating the place with some characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a show like Ballykissangel, Monarch of the Glen or Doctor Martin, and some who you only find in the shows and flicks made by Edgar Wright. Once on the town beat, the police chief’s chubby, somewhat simple son Danny (Nick Frost) latches onto him and makes him the wind beneath his wings. What follows is one and a half hours of set up, and twenty minutes of utterly over the top gun action which would deafen John Woo himself.

Rating: 

Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance

dir: Darren Ashton
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You could argue that making a mockumentary about stage mothers and their poor, put-upon children is a bit redundant, since you can’t satirise something that is already such a horrible reflection on humanity from the start. You can’t satirise a satire: it’d be like satirising Yes, Minister or parodying The Simpsons.

Or maybe you can, I’m not sure. Maybe anything is fair game.

Though I have no proof for this bollocksy assertion, I like to think that this flick’s origins were initiated by the last part of Little Miss Sunshine, which focused on a beauty pageant for 8-year-old girls. That was a hideous and insightful peak into the mentality of parents who make their children look like Las Vegas showgirls in order to live through and profit by them.

Razzle Dazzle makes the whole film about the sheer horribleness of these stage mothers, and the delusional maniacs who coach them. The difference is that the setting isn’t the exciting world of pre-teen beauty pageants, but instead resides in the magical land of dance.

The only characters who come through okay in this are the girls, who have their ups and downs, but at least they’re still recognisably human. For now.

Rating: 

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