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Archive for the ‘comedy’ Category

poster_volunteersWhen I ever say that a movie has no plot, I usually mean in the sense that it follows no identifiable structure. I mean, every movie has a plot obviously, even the worse ones have some mode of plot. Example: douchebag A attempts to sleep with librarian girl B but has to drive to C before she flies to Italy for college. That’s a plot as simple as it is, but the sequences, scenes, themes and beats which tell that story are what really make up a movie’s plot.

Here is another example: A spoiled Yale grad is forced to join the Peace Corps to avoid a deadly gambling debt and ends up in Thailand where he attempts to sleep with the only two attractive women of the region. That’s pretty much the plot of this 1995’s screwball comedy of Tom Hanks’ career, Volunteers.

Hanks (Inferno) stars as the spoiled Ivy leaguer Lawrence who trades identities with his Peace Corps volunteer college roommate to avoid his gambling debt. On his way to Thailand, he meets fellow volunteer Beth, played by Rita Wilson (Tom Hanks’ real life wife), and civil engineer Tom Tuttle, played by John Candy (Uncle Buck). Once in Thailand, the team is stationed in a small village where they are tasked to build a bridge over the region’s main river, even though it’s never clearly stated why the village needed it. Of course, once he’s there, he’s a total jackass and the villagers for some reason love him. He learns this bridge is a point of interest for both the region’s communist regime and its gangland warlord to expand their efforts and power and is offered the chance to sleep with the warlord’s mistress if he can make sure the bridge gets built. And of course his efforts to sleep with Beth turns into a genuine romance.

So basically, a bridge is built and a bridge is blown up. And sex was the only real motivation provided for our main character to do both.

This mess of a story had no direction once it hit Thailand. The writing was so weak and underdeveloped it was like watching a squirrel take a sedative. You know it should have been entertaining but simply wasn’t. I can’t say enough bad things about how piss poor this screenplay was. It would have been so much better if building the bridge was the main goal the entire time and the warlord and communists DIDN’T want it to be built. Then Lawrence would be trying to sabotage the project to sleep with aforementioned warlord mistress and have much more room for a substantial character arc when he falls for Beth. Instead, there was hardly any decent conflict and no story threads were followed through to the point of satisfaction.

The character of Lawrence was also weak. Sex and avoiding responsibility were his only motivations. He was a little witty but mostly he came off pompous. He just wasn’t likable for me, and for a role being played by Tom Hanks, it’s hard to accept.

Also, the movie simply wasn’t funny. At no time did I ever laugh out loud. Actually…I take that back. The only points which made me giggle was when Gedde Watanabe (Gung Ho!), playing the only English speaker in the villager At Toon, kept calling Lawrence by the nickname Asshole. Even after At Toon started to care about the protagonist, he still continued to call him Asshole. For some reason, that bit of funny never got old. But that was all that was funny about the film, period.

The last thing I’ll say is, this is maybe the worst role and performance I’ve seen from John Candy, and that makes me sad to see. It’s a terrible thing to have this as the last role I’ve seen of the late Second City alumn comedian. I will probably have to go rent Uncle Buck to or The Great Outdoors to get this vomit of an over-acted excuse for funny–or even acting–out of my head. There was nothing believable about Tom Tuttle except being a bit of an egoist and an inability to stop talking. Yet another character we aren’t allowed to like.

Overall, this movie was painful once it got to Thailand. It is maybe one of the worst Tom Hanks movies I’ve ever seen and now it is no wonder I’ve managed to have never seen it before.

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poster_ghostbustersEvery so often, your childhood memories and innocence is crushed for whatever reason. This time, the reason was a revamp of the 1984 comedic classic Ghostbusters. Despite not having any expectations going into this viewing, I was pleasantly surprised to find the first 30 minutes of the film decently funny. But after a while, things got stale and I just didn’t care for the movie by its end.

Not related to the original Ghostbusters storyline at all, four women start a paranormal investigation and removal business after a series of adverse spirits are released upon the city but an unknown mastermind.

You would think would think with Melissa McCarthy (Spy), and Tv’s Saturday Night Live talents like Kristen Wiig (The Martian), Kate McKinnon (Finding Dory) and Leslie Jones (Trainwreck) this movie would have been hilarious from beginning to end. But that’s about all this film had going for it; comedic star power. The script itself and material needs to be funny. Actors need a foundation to work with, and the foundation for this one was weak.

Strangely, I liked Kate McKinnon. She seemed to have to most fully developed character performance of the principal four. I looked up her career high points, and she’s done mostly vocal work for animated films, but I am eager to see what she can do showing her face down the road. Her character was overdone, but at least it was consistent and developed.

Chris Hemsworth (Thor) also provided a couple of laughs as the group’s dimwitted assistant, but once his character was possessed, the laughs pretty much ended for me. In fact, that’s the point the laughs ended for the entire movie.

I hated the presence of the Department of Homeland Security’s involvement as a subplot. It served no comedic purpose and didn’t propel anything. It was the true definition of a red herring. I also feel any Ghostbusters movie needs a strong villain. Even the sequel to the original Ghostbusters, which was total crap also, had at least a strong villain in Vigo.

What I found most annoying than the creation of a Ghostbusters revamp in the first place what the little tributes to the original film; involving actors from the original cast like Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver in walk on roles only annoyed me further. The appearance of the Stuff Puff Marshmellow Man and having iconic green ghost Slimer also make appearances didn’t help the film a bit. I also hated the revised versions–yes, there were more than one–of the original 80’s hit song to the first movie from Ray Parker Jr. Basically, any link this movie attempted to make to that of the original Ghostbusters didn’t sit well with me. If producers are going to make this revamp their own, they need to make it their own, period.

Lastly, I had a problem with the big throw down in Times Square where these paranormal scientists are fighting and capturing ghosts and spirits. The film showed the foursome go through a minimal amount of training with their equipment. These are scientists. Nerds, basically. They possibly don’t even possess any real self defense training, let alone combat training. However, when the fight comes to them, they turn into this set of sick-ass ninja level ghost fighters which I found EXTREMELY hard to swallow. Even in the original Ghostbusters, Venkman and company never fought anything. They captured and vanquished with their gear, but hand to hand combat was never an option. I would have had the same complaint of that film too if it did the same thing. Firefighters are trained to be firefighters. Scientists are not trained to be Jackie Chan.

The movie was terrible. McCarthy and Wiig did what we usually see them do. the screenplay lacked motivation and development, and the whole production went stale about an hour into it. I may have to say the movie went stale the moment it got the green light for production.

To read the review of this movie from my Movie Corner co-hort Brian G. Felts, click here.

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poster_paulblart2I’m not sure what is with Kevin James doing these Rated PG movies. He’s not the most vulgar guy in the world or even an Adam Sandler level of juvenile humor usually, but his brand of comedy has never really been PG even since his days as a stand-up comic. However, the Paul Blart movies and things like Zookeeper (2011) seem to be nothing less than holding him back.

This latest Paul Blart installment is a perfect example.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 follows the title character, again played by James (Grown Ups), six years after the first Mall Cop story ended. After his wife had left six days from their wedding date and following the death of his mother, Blart and his daughter take vacation in Las Vegas after the mall cop is invited to a conference of security officers the same day Maya, the daughter played by Raini Rodriguez (TV’s Austin & Ally), secretly learns of her acceptance into UCLA. In Vegas, Blart bumbles his way through self awareness until uncovering a criminal plot to heist the Wynn Hotel and Resort of numerous high profile works of art, which Maya witnesses. Now Blart must save his kidnapped daughter from the clutches of mastermind Vincent, played by Neal McDonough (Red 2).

This film’s biggest fault, other than being disgustingly predictable and done before, is Kevin James not taking Paul Blart up another level, and I’m talking Jim Carrey level. Most of the situational comedy could have been laugh out loud funny if Blart could break out of the small mode of realism he was boxed into.

For example, the craps scene; Blart had never played but saw people around the craps table and heard the shooter was hot. He asked the dealer what to do and ended up dropping over $100 on the next throw under the dealer’s recommendation. Of course, because Blart is such a loser, he loses the throw and is out of gambling funds. However, after it happens, he simply accepts his fate and moves on like he’s cool about it. That was a moment when we really could have seen James milk the comedy of that situation for everything it was, but…nothing. There were quite a lot of scenes like that.

However, there were a few moments which were improvised which truly showed how funny James is. An example would be in Act 3 when Vincent and Blart are shouting at each other in the hallway, just before the big gang rumble, arguing over who is the more dangerous and “crazy.”

Another was Blart’s inability to fake his way through the shipping worker’s suspicions simply because the shipping worker was eating an overripe banana which had turned black. That simple exchange probably made me laugh out the loudest. Unfortunately, those moments are about as rare as an honest politician.

The writing was weak. Nothing in this film was original. The script played everything safe and by the guidelines of any UCLA Film School textbook. The production relies solely on James’ comedic ability and without his character being outlandish enough, it wasn’t enough to carry the movie.

Rodriguez’s performance was everything Disney Channel preteen sitcoms aspire to be. McDonough is getting type cast very quickly. But that crazy contest scene was hilarious. Good for him.

Gary Valentine (TV’s The King of Queens) only gets work when Kevin James does. However, I always enjoy it when he has a character role in these movies. I loved his willingness to have the makeup department shave his head to simulate a receding hairline.

From a directing standpoint, this was actually pretty decent for this kind of comedy. I’m not going to say the visual style for telling the story is groundbreaking, but at least it was a little visually different in spots than one would expect from this type of movie. I’ve liked some of director Andy Fickman’s earlier projects including She’s the Man (2006) which was a preteen modern telling the Shakespeare play.

Now for the really bad. This movie, much like the first one, was disappointing and just plain stupid. For about a good 45 minutes all we do is watch Paul be a complete fucking loser. You really just wanted to give the guy a hug. And to be honest, without there being more big laughs from Kevin James, but it was depressing for that aspect. If you have any comedy that makes you depressed for 45 minutes, then your movie is a complete failure.

Overall, that’s the best way to describe this film, a total fail. I did laugh a bit, and it was nice to see Paul Blart as a character grow by the end, but it was shit. Please God, Ala, Budda, Sonny and Sheeba, by the power of Greyskull, make sure producers don’t make a Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3.

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poster_dirtygrandpaToo much.

Although there were a handful of very funny scenes and humorous moments, this movie more than tended to take its comedy just one, two, sometimes three steps too far. In fact, I’d say that was the theme. Finding I funny moment and taking it too far so it’s not as funny anymore.

Dirty Grandpa follows a small road trip between Jason Kelly, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors), and his grandfather Dick, played by Robert De Niro (The Intern), just one day after Dick’s wife passed from a 10-year bout with cancer. The trip becomes torture to Jason, an uptight corporate lawyer one week away from his wedding to a controlling fiancee, who does his best to keep things from getting too out of hand when he sees a side of his grandfather not seen before. Dick’s only ambition on the trip is to have sex with as many college gals as possible and get Jason’s ass unpuckered.

My biggest problem is the consistency of the main characters, or lack thereof. Dick, I can understand is going through a sort of re-emergence in his winter years now that his wife has passed. I get that and found that part of his character believable. Even his constant dick jokes I could by. During my theater days, we knew a combat veteran who was also a thespian. He was older and probably the most foul mouthed old man I’ve ever met. So again, I can believe Dick’s character and all the dick and vagina jokes which come out of his mouth. HOWEVER, his knowledge of young people’s vernacular and pop culture references simply didn’t fit. The writing attempted to make him more hip than his grandson Jason. Dick didn’t need to be hip, just more socially aware and relaxed than Jason. That would have been enough. Giving him all these pop culture references I find hard for an ex-special forces during Vietnam and Iraq wars in his 70s.

Jason, I can understand he took an easy boring path in life to make his father and his girlfriend happy. I get that as well. I find that totally believable; done before, but believable. But why the change? Why did the kid go from artists aspirations to a life as a corporate lawyer. It was never really made clear even though Dick even asked him point blank. We never know if there was some sort of catalyst for that shift in his life, which may have made his character and subplot writing stronger. However, Jason is portrayed as this uptight attorney who fears his girlfriend’s wrath. However, when they get on the road, his responses were met with more “harsh” language than what I would believe from someone in his social position.

Basically, if Jason was a bit more socially stiff and Dick was a little more his age, I would find them more believable and the comedy may have stayed in check and not go off the rails.

The writing DID establish why Dick had a terrible relationship with his son David, played by Durmot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding), and why he tried to make things up to David’s son Jason during Jason’s childhood. I found that dynamic very well thought out, especially for a screenwriter with his first major screen credit, John Phillips.

From a directing standpoint, it’s Florida during Spring break. Show a bunch of bikini’s and slutty college girls, a bunch of frat fucks with shit written on their bodies, and shoot on location at a bunch of motel outdoor pools and BOOM you’ve directed a movie in that setting. Director Dan Mazar got his start as a director on the Ali G Show with Sacha Baron Cohen, so this brand of dirty sexual insult humor was right in his wheelhouse.

Lastly, I’m utter surprised De Niro even agreed to do this movie. I had no idea he was willing to subject his talents to this level of juvenile raunch comedy. And at the same time, I have to commend him for doing something I’ve never seen him do before at any age, let alone in his 70s.

Overall, Dirty Grandpa takes things to a much lower level than what I’m accustomed to. Is it good? No. Is it funny? In spots yes. Is it worth seeing? Not really.

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This was actually quite fun. The acting was as to be expected from something released in 1937 but the writing was pretty solid and the humor at least made an attempt to transcend from the movie’s dated shortcomings.

The Awful Truth is about a married couple named Jerry, played by Carey Grant (Once Upon a Honeymoon), and Lucy, played by Irene Dunn (Love Story), who suspect each other of being unfaithful. They divorce and during the 60 days it takes for the decree to be concrete, the pair attempt to ruin each others’ every chance of finding happiness.

Grant was pretty damn funny I must say. Some of his slapstick scenes were beneath him, but he had a few chuckle worthy lines of dialogue and a couple little bits of business which gave his character cocktail a smidgen of douchbag; not even a mean douchbag but rather a humorous douchbag. I hadn’t seen Grant play a character like that before–not that I’ve seen a ton of his films.

Of course after doing some research, I learned most of the scenes were improvised and probably why Grant was so amusing in my favorite bits. It also explains why so many scenes seemed to feel like they had no purpose but to not let 10 minutes go by without something funny happening.

Dunne was also fun and had a couple of very laughable moments in hopes of embarrassing Grant’s character. She was given an Academy Award nomination for this film as best actress.

The cinematography was spot on one of the reasons I hate these elderly films. The lighting was more suited for a stage play rather than a movie. Back then, the concept was to over light a scene and bring the aperture down. However, it always makes the movie look more staged than anything else.

As for directing, at least there were medium and close shots as coverage to help with the awkward scenes within the material. It helped overcome the staged appearance of movie from its era. Director Leo McCarey (1957’s An Affair to Remember, 1944’s Going My Way) won the Academy Award for bet director for this film. Now I won’t say he deserved that recognition, but I’ll leave compliment to he kept the movie interesting for me. The trick with the cuckoo clock at the end was an amusing choice as well.

What I enjoyed most about the movie was seeing Ralph Bellamy at age 33 in a supporting role which had him dancing a jig of sorts with Dunne. For those of you who don’t know the veteran actor, Bellamy played Randolph Duke in Trading Places (1983) across from Don Ameche who played his brother. Bellamy actually earned an Academy Award for his supporting role in The Awful Truth.

Once Bellamy’s okie from Oklahoma character leaves the plot, the film begins to go off the rails. The story gets unfocused and I started to not care with about 15 minutes of screen time remaining.

Overall, this movie wasn’t as painful as some others from the same decade. It had a few laughs, but I wouldn’t say it was a best picture Oscar nomination like it was that year. If that’s the case, I’d be scared to see what else was nominated in 1938.

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poster_theinternThe first movie written-directed by Nancy Meyers I’ve ever saw was Father of the Bride 2. I love it even today. Very funny. Great dialogue. Not too overly romantic. That’s how Nancy Myers films have been throughout her entire catalogue. The Intern was no different.

The Intern is about a 70-year old widower named Ben, played by Robert De Niro (Casino), who applies for a senior intern outreach program with a fledgling but exponentially successful Internet business called About the Fit, hoping to find something to do with himself. Being accepted, he is assigned as the personal intern for Jules, played by Anne Hathaway (Interstellar), a difficult workaholic and founder of the company. Although she doesn’t care for the new intern at first, Ben soon becomes the close friend Jules needed to get her through an unusual time of her business and marriage and his wisdom helps her realize what is truly important to her.

Nancy Myers. That is the No. 1 reason this movie is so enjoyable. It’s very well written and humbly funny. The characters have plenty room for growth and are vulnerable in all the right ways Myers usually presents in one of her scripts.

After digging a little, I was surprised to see Myers has one been nominated for one Academy Award as a writer. It was for Private Benjamin, a 1980 comedy with Goldie Hawn, which I had seen when I was way young but never realized Myers had a hand in it. I then went through the woman’s resume and there has not been a movie she wrote which I thought wasn’t worth seeing or owning.

If there was fault in The Intern, it was two things. The first was the computer break in scene where Ben and the other interns break into Jules’ mothers’ home to delete a nasty email Jules accidentally sent. The scene was overzealous and the crew of interns probably would not have gotten away with it. But I understand its purpose to the developing story between Ben and Jules.

The other blemish was I felt Jules’ character, given all her stresses, needed a breakdown moment. She sort of had one in the San Francisco hotel room confessing personal issues to Ben, but for the most part, I thought more needed to be done to show Jules admitted she couldn’t handle everything on her own.

That’s about it. The rest of the script was pretty tight.

Two-time Academy Award winner De Niro is what he is. His experience in film acting transposed to his experience as a character. Hathaway stood out since she had the most room to grow as a character. She had several moments which showed complexity. Something the Academy Award winner handled easily, or at least she made it look easy.

The office personnel offers a nice complimentary ensemble as the supporting cast.

Ultimately, my favorite aspect of this movie was the dialogue. It was sharp and witty and just up my alley. It was the same reasons I loved Myers’ script for Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday and Irreconcilable Differences.

It was also a New York City story. Not so much that it looked like a Woody Allen movie, but as far as the Brooklyn borough goes, this story clinched the area in its own way.

Let me come back to Anne Hathaway. In the end there was one thing about De Niro’s performance which I loved. Every response he had made it seem like his character expected everything to happen that way. There were no surprises for Ben. He’d seen it all. Al least that’s how he came across. Hathaway however had so many layers, this was maybe my favorite performance from her. And this coming from a “guy” who loved The Dark Knight Rises where she ran around in a matte-leather suit and bent over a motorcycle half the time as Catwoman. This movie, for her, had such a subtle approach to what we could learn from her character, only someone with her chops could sell it. Really, the movie’s sell-ability rests with her. She dropped it like it was nothing. Impressive.

Overall, I really liked The Intern and I will own it when I find it for the right price. Guys, if your woman suggests it as a RedBox or Netflix rental, she could suggest you sit through way worse. Remember that movie Boyhood in 2014 which was almost three hours long and shot over like 13 years? Yeah, that is a WAY worse suggestion to rent than this one.

Pick your battles, guys. At least THIS is funny.

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poster_unfinishedbizUnusual. This movie is like Glengarry Glen Ross but funny not boring and involves outbound salesmen instead of a bunch of sales guys sitting around an office bitching.

It was unusual because I’m not sure how to look back on this movie. I don’t know if it’s about refusing to give up or if about learning balance. In fact I don’t know what it is really about.

On the surface, Unfinished Business is about three rejected sales people, thrown away by a large corporation, one of whom named Dan, played by Vince Vaughn (The Internship), starts his own company, employs the other two, played by Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom) and Dave Franco (Neighbors), and struggles the first year using a coffee house as their head office. That is until a big lead is all but sold and after a short business trip to Europe to shake hands, the deal will be done.

Once there, Dan learns the deal isn’t for-sure closed and that their former employer is in town and competing for the contract as well. Now the three must figure out a way to close this deal or be bankrupt without it. Meanwhile, European party antics take the whole trip off the rails.

Even though the purpose of this movie was unclear, it was pretty damn funny. I’ll get to that in a second.

For now, one problem I had with the movie was their business. I didn’t even know what the hell these guys were selling. Some sort of minerals? Or refinery or disposal thereof? No real clue. The talked about having rival expense percentages and whatnot but it means nothing to me. Didn’t even know what they were selling. So I wasn’t very intellectually invested as I could have been.

Working a sales position presently myself, I could identify with these guys resting their hopes of their livelihood on this one sale. However, it’s not a culture which serves as an interesting cinematic vehicle. In fact, sales is one of worst professions you could portray in the movies from a main character. It’s just not interesting and unless you are in sales yourself, than you don’t understand how it feels to put in SO much work and maybe never get paid for it until months or maybe a year later.

I also thought the movie was going to be about how these three guys were so close to success but their partying was keeping them from the finish line. Ultimately, the partying had nothing to do with holding up the closing of the big sale. Maybe it made them running late or short of time, but it added no outer conflict to their goal. What kept them from their goal was A-typical sales industry adversity. “The man” you need to talk to is always somewhere else. You’re always having to sell the underman first. Your competition made a hard sell and you are scrambling for more time to prove yourself in a different manner. It sucks. And it sucks for these characters. Honestly I felt sorry for them on many levels.

So as a movie, the partying didn’t add adversity to their goal in my mind, which lends itself to a weak plot.

There weren’t a lot of character arcs as well. Tim (Wilkinson) is older and set in his ways. There was some inner motivation about his marriage and crap we didn’t care about, but for the most part there was no change for Tim not any need for one.

Dan was the same way. He was a hard worker who wanted what he had worked for. He also never gave up. So where was the need for growth from his character? Even as a father, yes he was busy but he wasn’t a bad or absentee dad. Not much room to grow there either.

So why keep watching the movie? It was funny. There was quite a bit of situational comedy especially in the glory hole Berlin bathroom which was a riot. Necessary to the story? No. But hilarious nonetheless.

There was a bright spot in a dim example of character writing; Mike Pancake (Franco). No here was a character with a ton of room to grow and did. Being a complete social retard allowed him to learn and change the most. Franco’s performance handling this type of young character was very well handled and he was committed in every scene.

Before I finished talking about characters and the cast, I must mention Sienna Miller (American Sniper) is totally hot in this as Dan’s former boss.

The climax of the film, where Dan sells the big wig, was anti that. It didn’t make me cheer or feel good. It happened and they got what they wanted and went home. The end…Zzzzz.

The best part of the ending came during the initial start of the end credits. Dan’s youngest daughter writes a bit of homework, a thesis, on “Who is your daddy?” Dan reads her response as “Daddy is the one who drives when everyone else is tired,” which was a microcosm of Dan’s roll in his struggling business. Having the daughter recognize that was precious and was a moment far more ore strong than the movie deserved, but it was nice to be the last moment of the film.

Overall, I won’t own this comedy but it did make me laugh. If you want to see some great European locations and a handful of dicks hanging out of the wall in a Berlin bathroom, by all means make your RedBox reservation of Unfinished Business today.

 

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